The Environment Secretary has refused to rule out chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef being imported from the US in a post-Brexit trade deal.
George Eustice also defended the Government's new immigration system, after businesses raised fears of a shortage of workers.
His predecessor before the recent reshuffle had insisted the controversial products from the States would not be imported amid animal welfare and environmental fears.
But Mr Eustice, while saying there are "no plans" to change the law, did not implicitly rule it out when pressed three times on the subject.
With the Government expected to publish its negotiating position for a free trade deal with Washington within two weeks, he told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday that the Government would not "take risks" on standards of welfare.
But he said "lactic acid washes" are now more commonly used in the US than chlorine, which is unlikely to allay fears over animal welfare because concerns centre on treatment before the washes themselves.
"What I'm saying is we won't make any moves on our standards, we've got a clear position in this country that it is illegal to sell chlorine-washed chicken, illegal to sell beef treated with hormones, we have no plans to change those things," he said.
Theresa Villiers, who was relegated from leading the environment department to the backbenches in Boris Johnson's reshuffle, was implicit in January that the EU laws banning chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef would be adopted here.
US foods that are currently banned in the UK
US foods that are currently banned in the UK
Boxes of Froot Loops, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks and Honey Smacks, Kellogg's cereal on store shelf, on texture, partial graphic
The US ambassador has asked the UK to drop its opposition to chlorine-washed chicken. Photograph: Denis Closon/RexThe US should join the back of a queue for a post-Brexit trade deal if it thinks its “woefully inadequate” and “backward” animal welfare and food safety standards will be accepted in Britain, the former farming minister George Eustice has said.Eustice, a leading Brexit supporter who resigned from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week, said signing any deal that allowed a reduction in food standards would be a mistake, as it could “give free trade a bad name”.His remarks are a rebuttal to Woody Johnson, the US ambassador, who last week invited the UK to drop its opposition to certain practices such as the use of hormones in beef and chlorine washes in chicken when considering a trade deal.The issue is a contentious one within the UK government as Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has insisted food and welfare standards will be maintained, but Liam Fox, the trade secretary, has defended the safety of chlorine-washed chicken.Writing for the Guardian, Eustice said the UK has a “sophisticated and discerning” market for food but agriculture in the US “remains quite backward in many respects”.“Their livestock sectors often suffer from poor husbandry which leads to more prevalence of disease and a greater reliance on the use of antibiotics,” he said. “Whereas we have a ‘farm to fork’ approach to managing disease and contamination risk throughout the supply chain through good husbandry, the culture in the US is more inclined to simply treat contamination of their meat at the end with a chlorine or similar wash.”He said the situation in relation to animal welfare was even worse, as “legislation as regards animal welfare is woefully deficient”.“There are some regulations governing slaughterhouses but they are not as comprehensive as ours,” he said. “As far as on-farm welfare legislation is concerned, there is virtually nothing at all at a federal level and only very weak and patchy animal welfare regulations at a state level, predominantly in the west coast states. There is a general resistance to even acknowledging the existence of sentience in farm animals which is quite extraordinary.”Eustice, a longstanding Brexit supporter, resigned from the government last week, saying Theresa May’s decision to allow a vote on delaying article 50 would be “the final humiliation of our country”.He said he was strongly supportive of the UK striking trade deals after Brexit but they should demand that suppliers meet British standards, highlighting a Conservative manifesto commitment to do so.“If the Americans want to be granted privileged access to the UK market, then they will have to learn to abide by British law and British standards, or they can kiss goodbye to any trade deal and join the back of the queue,” he said.He said trade deals should be an opportunity to “project British values of kindness and compassion” rather than allow them to be undermined.Johnson, who has been ambassador since 2017, set out the US position on a post-Brexit trade deal in the Telegraph last week, saying it was a myth that chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-pumped beef were bad.“You have been presented with a false choice,” he wrote. “Either stick to EU directives, or find yourselves flooded with American food of the lowest quality. Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light.”Johnson described using chlorine to wash chicken as a “public safety no-brainer” and insisted it was the most effective and economical way of dealing with “potentially lethal” bacteria.He said the EU was a “museum of agriculture” and its “traditionalist” approach belonged in the past.
Imported American beef, Tokyo, Japan, on texture. partial graphic
Miami Beach, Publix, grocery store soda aisle. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Food and drink: ruffled fried potato chips, isolated on white background
Sanibel Island, Jerry's Foods, grocery store bread aisle. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Government forecasts suggest independent trade deals would be a boost for the UK, but experts warn deals can become contentious. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty ImagesAlong with ending free movement of people, it was the reddest of Theresa May’s red lines: post-Brexit Britain should be able to strike its own trade deals.The prime minister contended that to respect the 2016 referendum result the UK must have “new opportunities to trade with the rest of the world” and, for the sake of these future trade deals, she ruled out Labour proposals for a permanent customs union with the EU.But the argument is far from over. A proposal for a permanent customs union with the EU fell just six votes short of a majority last week when MPs voted on their preferred Brexit outcome.For years a niche subject for campaigners, wonks and eurosceptics, trade policy has become a big issue in British political life. One former prime minister told a private audience recently that if he had been asked about the EU customs union during his time in office, he would not have known what they were talking about.The customs union means that EU countries apply the same tariffs to imported goods from the rest of the world. Trade deals are negotiated by Brussels on behalf of the (currently) 28 members, although governments agree the mandate and approve the final deal. The EU has trade deals covering 69 countries, including Canada and South Korea, which the UK is struggling to roll over to bilateral agreements.Proponents of an independent UK trade policy, such as the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, say Britain must forge its own deals if it is to take advantage of the world’s fast-growing economies. “Free to trade with the whole world” was one of the five promises of the Vote Leave manifesto of 2016.The government’s own forecasts show that a UK-US trade deal would boost the British economy by 0.2% in the long run, while deals with Asia – including China and India – the Gulf, Australia and New Zealand, would add up to 0.4%. Supporters of the UK striking its own trade deals have never explained why Germany manages to export more than three times the value in goods to China than Britain while also being in the EU customs union.Meanwhile, Japanese trade negotiators have said they will demand better terms from the UK than it gets from the EU, and Australia poured cold water on the UK’s hopes to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, due to its distant location.British scepticism of European trade policy has a long history. Arguments about New Zealand butter raged during the 1975 referendum. Eurosceptics on the right and left have blamed the European project for dumping cheap food on developing countries.Daniel Hannan, a long-term advocate of an independent trade policy, said he had not changed his mind.“The idea that we can’t improve the trade deals that we have through the EU is preposterous,” said the long-serving Conservative MEP. The UK would be able “to liberalise much further” in trade deals with the rest of the world, he said, rejecting suggestions that dropping tariffs could wipe out British manufacturing. “There has never been a country that has got poorer as a result of dropping its trade barriers.”Polls suggest the public like the idea of an independent trade policy, although few have been done. Almost half of people (49%) surveyed by Ipsos Mori in March 2018 thought the British economy would be better off in five to 10 years if the UK negotiated its own trade deals, even if that meant putting up barriers with Europe. In contrast, 36% favoured maintaining trade with the EU.Anthony Wells, the director of political research at YouGov, said: “If we ask people, they say they’d like Britain to be able to make its own trade deals, [but] I doubt it is really a driving force – it’s just an example of a wider concern. It is the principle of being able to make our own rules and laws that leave supporters care about.”A YouGov survey last July found that independent trade policy was voters’ joint fourth Brexit priority, behind control over immigration, and ending EU rules and budget payments.Trade experts say deals get more contentious once they become real. “It is one of those things that sounds great but when it actually comes down to it trade has always been controversial because people always want something from you,” said David Henig, who was heavily involved in negotiations on an EU-US trade deal.“New Zealand want to sell more lamb and Australia certainly want to sell us more lamb. That’s not going to go down very well in Wales or Scotland.”David Martin, a Labour MEP and senior member of the European parliament’s trade committee, said EU trade deals already lowered tariffs, opened up public procurement and ensured protection for speciality food and drink. “What is it that the advocates of an independent trade policy think an independent trade policy could deliver that the EU doesn’t?”He predicted resistance from MPs to a future UK-US trade deal if it would result in a flood of cheap American chicken and beef that undercut British farmers. “I am not sure that our farmers – and I know it is a bit cliched – want to throw their doors open to hormone beef from the United States … Because the volume of that beef could wipe out many of our farmers.”He predicted that, as a country of 66 million people facing much larger blocs, the UK would struggle to get its own way in trade talks. “The truth in trade negotiations is size really does matter.”
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 23: Packs of 'Brexit Selection Freshly Chlorinated Chicken' sit on display at 'Costupper' Brexit Minimart pop-up store, set up by the People's Vote campaign group, to demonstrate predicted price rises and supply problems in south London, United Kingdom on November 23, 2018. (Photo by Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Government to keep ban on chlorinated chicken after Brexit, raising fresh doubts over UK-US trade deal
Rampant use of methamphetamine, an equivalent of ractopamine, in meat may trigger heart attacks, organ damage
<p>Ractopamine is a feed additive banned in 160 countries, including the European Union, China and Russia, and heavily regulated in many others. It’s used to induce weight gain in pigs, cattle and turkeys before they’re slaughtered. There are safety concerns for animals that are fed with ractopamine; some animals, for instance, gained weight so rapidly that they lost the ability to stand. Others lose the function of their limbs or become hyperactive. For humans, a safety evaluation conducted by <a href="https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1041?referrer=yahoo&category=beauty_food&include_utm=1&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=yahoo&utm_campaign=feed">the European Union</a> looked into suspicions that these products could affect blood pressure and increase <a href="https://www.thedailymeal.com/healthy-eating/unexpected-signs-unhealthy-heart-gallery?referrer=yahoo&category=beauty_food&include_utm=1&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=yahoo&utm_campaign=feed">the risk of heart disease</a>, but these findings were inconclusive. One way to avoid these products in the U.S. is to buy organic meats; in order for a product to be certified organic, it cannot involve animals fed with these additives.</p>
Credit: USDA/Keith Weller
The problem: "Fish is naturally low in saturated fat, and some types, like salmon, are also high in omega-3 fat, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack and inflammation throughout the body. While Americans need to eat more seafood and less red meat, some fish such as farmed salmon are contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals such as PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls], pesticides [such as dieldrin and toxaphene], and antibiotics, says Margaret I. Cuomo, MD, author of A World Without Cancer.
And unlike wild salmon, farmed salmon are fed a mixture of other fish ground into fishmeal and fish oil, and they concentrate more toxins in their fat tissue than do other fish, Dr. Cuomo notes.
The solution: "Fish is an important part of my family's diet, and I am very careful to choose wild salmon, rather than farmed salmon," Dr. Cuomo says.
In an approximately 400-page report released this week, a nonprofit academic group evaluated 20 years of research on genetically-modified foods and found them safe for consumption as well as for the environment. WSJ's Jacob Bunge joins Tanya Rivero. Photo: Getty
Genetically modified foods could hit shelves untested and unlabelled
Liz Edsell of the Vermont Public Interest Group holds a bottle of salad dressing that has been labeled as having been produced with genetic engineering at a rally Friday, July 1, 2016, in Montpelier, Vt. The event commemorated the implementation of the nation's first state law to require the labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
FILE - This April 8, 2016 file photo shows a new disclosure statement which reads, "PARTIALLY PRODUCED WITH GENETIC ENGINEERING" on a package of candy in Montpelier, Vt. On Friday, July 1, 2016, Vermont will become the first U.S. state to require the labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
A view of signs with messages during a protest by activists against the production of herbicides and GMO (genetically modified organisms) food products outside Monsanto headquarters during its annual shareholders meeting in Creve Coeur, Missouri, January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kate Munsch (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST HEALTH FOOD AGRICULTURE BUSINESS)
This chemical is used to help bread and cracker dough rise during the baking process — even though it's been linked to certain cancers in animal studies and it's banned in many other countries. That's good enough reason for Leiba to recommend against eating it. Look for the ingredient on baked good labels or ask about it at the bakery where you buy *fAnCy~* freshly made breads — then choose a potassium-bromate-free option, when you can.
Powerade bottles in various flavors are photographed in San Francisco, Monday, May 5, 2014. A controversial ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, is being removed from some Powerade sports drinks. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
The ingredients on a bottle of Mountain Dew are photographed in San Francisco, Monday, May 5, 2014. Coca-Cola said on Monday it will drop brominated vegetable oil from all its drinks that contain it, not just Powerade. The Atlanta-based company says the controversial ingredient is still being used in some flavors of Fanta and Fresca, as well as several citrus-flavored fountain drinks. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Those pre-packaged meals may come with a price. Several common food additives used in the U.S., including brominated vegetable oil (BVO), some food colorings, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), are listed as possible carcinogens and are banned in other countries.
Dairy cows eat at Perrydell Dairy Farm Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007 in York Pa. Perrydell does not use rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin, in the production of their dairy products. Pennsylvania is stopping dairies from stamping milk containers with hormone-free labels in a precedent-setting decision being closely watched by the industry. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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"There are legal barriers to their import and those are going to stay in place," she added.
The Government's immigration plans set out this week are designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering the UK.
The plans have drawn criticism from businesses for choking off a supply of workers that they need to operate.
Mr Eustice, who used to run a strawberry farm, stressed a seasonal agricultural workers scheme will be an "important part of immigration policy in the future".
He said there would be a quadrupling of the size of the scheme to 10,000 initially this year, but this still falls short of National Farmers' Union calls for 70,000.
Mr Eustice said ministers would be working out a "fully fledged" programme for the future.
Home Secretary Priti Patel had suggested lower-skilled jobs could be filled by eight million people classed as "economically inactive".
But she drew criticism after it was pointed out that the Office for National Statistics estimates most of these are students, long-term sick, carers or retired.
"I don't think the Home Secretary was saying that all eight million of those people would be able to fill these, just that there are people there who might," he told Sky.
Ministers are expected to recommit to seeking to obtain a Canada-style agreement with Brussels in the negotiating mandate scheduled for publication on Thursday.
But this could set up a clash with the EU after its chief negotiator Michel Barnier ruled out the possibility the UK could have the same deal as the North American nation.
While the UK formally left the EU on January 31 it is currently in a transition period during which it follows Brussels' rules without having a say in how they are made.
The transition is due to finish on December 31 and the Prime Minister has repeatedly vowed not to extend it.
But there have been fears this is too little time to strike the ambitious deal and the UK could plummet out of the bloc and be hit with high trade tariffs.
The PM is to convene his Brexit Cabinet on Tuesday to sign off on the mandate before it is published online and laid out in Parliament on Thursday.
His Europe adviser David Frost will then head to Brussels for the first round of negotiations on March 2.
The EU member states are expected to adopt their negotiating position on Tuesday.
Brussels is yet to publish its negotiating mandate but a leaked draft reportedly included a stipulation the UK must "return unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin".
The Government ruled out discussing handing the Parthenon marbles, commonly called the Elgin marbles, back to Greece.