The noisy debate around chlorinated chicken has been fed by ‘anti-American bigotry’, according to Conservative MP Andrew Percy.
Mr Percy, who has a keen interest in transatlantic trade, made the remarks during a parliamentary debate about the future of the UK’s agriculture policy last week.
He told MPs he wanted to ‘chide’ Defra Secretary Michael Gove for comments about American food production and chlorinated chicken which were ‘not helpful’ to the UK’s future relationship with the US.
In summer last year, Mr Gove was forced to wade into a row over food standards after Trade Secretary Liam Fox expressed his support for a US-UK deal which would allow chlorinated chicken on to British shelves.
“Having access to the US market is incredibly important to British farmers post-Brexit, just as it is important for American farmers to gain access to our market. Any agreement must therefore be based on evidence”, Mr Percy said.
“Where we have differences, it is still possible to negotiate a deal. Some of the comments which have been made about things such as chlorinated chicken have fed anti-American bigotry, which would not be accepted in any other relationship.
“There is a lot of evidence out there about chlorinated chicken. I do not propose to go into it, other than to point out a person would have to eat a full chlorinated chicken to get the same amount of chlorine as they would get from one glass of water.
“I do not see many people advocating drinking or importing raw water.”
But Vicki Hird, campaign co-ordinator for food and farming policy at Sustain, told Farmers Guardian Mr Percy was ‘seriously out of step’ with his ministerial colleagues in Defra and the Department for International Trade who have repeatedly promised the UK will keep its high food standards post-Brexit.
“To lower them would jeopardise future trade deals with other countries and put the UK’s 3.9 million food and farming jobs at risk”, she added.
“The problem with chlorine washes and other dubious practices like irradiation is they mask low animal welfare and poor farming standards, which the British public will just not accept. We refuse to lower our food standards in order to strike trade deals.”
The bitterness of the row over chlorinated chicken was highlighted at the Oxford Farming Conference, where US Deputy Agriculture Secretary Ted McKinney said he was ‘sick and tired’ of hearing about it.
Mr McKinney told the conference the practice was not often used and American producers would put the quality of their produce up against UK poultry ‘any day of the week and twice on Sunday’.