Defra’s chief scientist has said British shoppers should be able to choose whether or not they want to eat hormone-treated beef or chlorinated chicken after Brexit, prompting a backlash from farm groups.
Professor Sir Ian Boyd, who is stepping down this week after advising Government Ministers for seven years, said there were no scientific or health reasons why either kind of meat should be banned – echoing the position of the US administration.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “From a health perspective, there really is not a problem with chlorinated chicken.
“The issue is about production processes and animal welfare, and that is a values-based choice people need to make. My view is we need to be allowed to make that choice.”
On the hormones used to fatten cattle more quickly, Sir Ian suggested most of them would have already been metabolised by the time beef reaches the plate.
“The chances of it having any biological effect on us is almost infinitesimally small,” he added.
But Jo Lewis, policy director at the Soil Association, slammed Sir Ian’s comments as ‘profoundly wrong’.
“Chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef are products of the intensive meat production model which pollutes, degrades and destroys,” she said.
“We need to eat less but better quality meat and Government policy should support that. The Prime Minister has guaranteed we will not see UK food and welfare standards sacrificed on the altar of a US trade deal or British farmers undercut by lower standard imports.
“This public promise must be kept.”
Sir Ian has previously courted controversy by telling MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee that if people ate less meat, the impact on the environment would be ‘significantly less than it is now’.
Farmers were also left stunned by his comments in September 2018 that the UK’s agricultural system ‘had not changed much’ since the 19th century.