Bacon with banned additive among risks of US-UK trade deal

Soil Association issues top 10 food safety concerns posed by a transatlantic free-trade deal

Chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef and bacon produced with additives strong enough to cripple pigs have been listed by British campaigners as three of the top 10 food safety risks posed by a free-trade deal with the US.

American use of the pork additive ractopamine alongside the more publicised practices of washing chicken in chlorine and feeding cattle growth hormones are highlighted in a report by the Soil Association as chief among its concerns about a post-Brexit era.

“Some of the key differences between UK and US production – hormone-treated beef, GM crops and chlorinated chicken – are becoming increasingly understood by British consumers,” the report says.

A report by the Soil Association highlights 10 concerns about food safety in a post-Brexit era. These foods are currently banned in the UK:

  1. Chlorine-washed chicken (banned in the EU).
  2. Hormone-treated beef (banned in the EU).
  3. Ractopamine in pork (banned in the EU).
  4. Chicken litter as animal feed (banned in the EU). Includes the birds' faeces.
  5. Atrazine-treated crops (banned in the EU). Atrazine is a herbicide used on 90% of sugar cane, which can enter into the water supply and interfere with wildlife.
  6. Genetically modified foods (banned in the EU).
  7. Brominated vegetable oil (banned in the EU). BVO is used in citrus drinks; Coca-Cola announced it would stop using BVO in 2004.
  8. Potassium bromate (banned in the EU). A dough conditioner also banned in China, Brazil and Canada, in tests on rats it has been found to be a possible carcinogen.
  9. Azodicarbonamide. A bleaching agent for flour, it has been linked to an increase in tumours in rats.
  10. Food colourants (banned in the UK, regulated in the EU). Can lead to hyperactivity in children.

But there are “other areas where products imported from the US could be produced under significantly different standards to our own”, it adds.

The report was published to coincide with the second reading of the trade bill, which will provide a framework for post-Brexit trade deals.

Ractopamine, which can add three kilos of extra meat to a pig, is banned by almost every country except the US. The EU has outlawed its use since 1996.

It is fed to an estimated 60-90% of pigs in the US in the weeks before slaughter and has been found to cause disability in animals including trembling, broken bones and an inability to walk, according to the Soil Association.

The group says it is concerned there will be pressure to source food from the US after Brexit, particularly if tariffs are imposed on food from elsewhere in the EU.

“The concern is that while Michael Gove [the environment secretary] wants the country to be a leader in animal welfare and food safety … there will be a race to the bottom if British farmers have to compete on price with American food,” said Honor Eldridge, a policy officer at the Soil Association.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has long argued that the biggest prize from Brexit would be a trade deal with the US. Farmers and food producers have expressed deep concern that food standards would be compromised in pursuit of a deal.

They have been spooked by a London visit by Donald Trump’s most senior business representative, who warned that any post-Brexit deal with Washington would hinge on the UK scrapping rules set by Brussels, including regulations governing imports of chlorinated chicken.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, suggested European regulations governing the safety of chlorine-washed chicken ignored the findings of US scientific research. His comments underline the potential difficulties in striking a free-trade deal with the US once Britain leaves the EU.

“Michael Gove needs to continue to advocate for high British food standards to Liam Fox and the government and for the risks and differences of food standards in the US to be recognised,” said Eldridge.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to a mutually beneficial economic trading arrangement with the US. We have been clear that the UK will maintain its own high animal welfare and environmental standards in future free trade agreements.”


Lisa O'Carroll

The GuardianTramp

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