Industry leaders have reacted angrily to comments from the new Trade and Agriculture Commission chairman, who called for an end to the ‘alarmism’ around chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef on his first day in post.
Writing for The Telegraph, Tim Smith, a former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency and ex-Tesco group technical director, said the panic over both products, which are currently banned in the UK, had done ‘neither the industry nor the public any favours’.
His comments prompted a backlash from Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council.
Mr Griffiths said: “People are rightly concerned about maintaining our food standards and want to know our Government is listening.
“These comments show either a lack of understanding of the subject or a degree of contempt for people who are genuinely worried, neither of which is a good look for a commission supposedly intended to be on the side of British food producers.”
After five years at the helm of the FSA, Mr Smith moved to Tesco in 2012, which was hit one year later by the horsemeat scandal.
He previously worked for Northern Foods, Arla and Sara Lee.
Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, said: “The Government is trying to fob us off with a temporary, toothless commission, stacked with industry representatives and no consumer champions.
“To have the chair of this commission, on his first day in post, dismiss our serious concerns about dirty production systems which need chlorine washing as ‘alarmism’ adds insult to injury.
“Mr Smith says the Government has been clear on maintaining high standards of food safety and animal welfare, yet it refuses to protect these in law from cheap imports.”
Trade expert David Henig, UK director of the European Centre for International Political Economy, also described Mr Smith’s comments as ‘disappointing’ on social media.
In a tweet, Mr Henig said: “When seeking a consensus on a difficult topic it is generally not a good idea to start by telling large numbers they are being alarmist.
“This was a failing of the EU at the start of the TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, also known as the EU-US trade deal] process in 2013, and has been repeated by the UK Government since 2016. Disappointing.”