UK food standards organisation Red Tractor has hit back at US claims that rules around food and farming in the European Union are outdated.
Writing in the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper on Friday (1 March), US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson urged the UK to leave the EU’s “Museum of Agriculture” and dismiss “misleading scare-stories” about American agriculture.
But Jim Moseley, CEO of Red Tractor Assurance, responded: “Categorically, the UK’s food standards are now under threat from the commercial appetites of the United States food lobby. We urge the government not to sacrifice legislation which prevents these sort of products from being sold in the UK.
“British people deserve better than having their world-leading food standards sold out from underneath them.”
Brexit is at the heart of this debate. If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March without a trade deal it will be looking to tie up deals elsewhere with the US an obvious target.
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But some in the UK are concerned that the necessity for a deal could mean the UK accepting US food production standards.
In the US, the government permits such practices as chlorinated chicken, which consists of dipping meat into chlorinated water to prevent microbial contamination, but this practice is banned in the EU.
Ambassador Johnson’s article attempted to allay these fears while suggesting that the EU approach is outmoded.
“You have been presented with a false choice: either stick to EU directives, or find yourselves flooded with American food of the lowest quality,” he said.
“Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light. It is time the myths are called out for what they really are: a smear campaign from people with their own protectionist agenda.”
The UK government has repeatedly said it will not lower food standards as part of a future trading agreement.
Moseley at Red Tractor argued that this is in line with UK consumer priorities.
“Our research shows that shoppers look for food that has been produced to the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and traceability. A deal that allows illegal products to be brought into the UK, lets down the British public and undermines all the investment and efforts of British farmers,” he said.
“This cannot be the right thing to do.”
The Red Tractor food and farm assurance scheme was established by the UK’s National Farmers’ Union in 2000. It promotes and regulates food quality in the country using the Red Tractor quality mark.
Read just-food blog from October: Will Fox be on the run over post-Brexit food standards?