A trade deal with the US could see British obesity levels soar, according to ex-Shadow Defra Secretary Kerry McCarthy.
Ms McCarthy made the suggestion during a debate on the Government’s flagship Trade Bill, which has been brought forward to allow the UK to replicate EU trade deals with 50 other countries.
She highlighted the experiences of Mexico and Samoa to illustrate how their trade arrangements with the US had caused public health crises.
In Mexico, Ms McCarthy claimed, the North American free trade agreement was blamed for a tripling of obesity as fast food companies ‘flooded the market’ with high fructose corn syrup, while Samoa, which has among the highest rates of obesity, hypertension and diabetes in the world, was left unable to ban high fat food imports from the US such as turkey tails due to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
“Perhaps many Members here think the people of Samoa should not be deprived of their freedom to eat deep-fried turkey tails, if this is what they really want to do, but the broader point is if the UK is taking back control, we should be able to decide”, Ms McCarthy said.
“We should set standards for what we want to import into this country. It is not about protectionism; it is about ethics, the economy and the type of sustainable and healthy society we want.
“That makes it all the more important we have full scrutiny of not just the trade deals covered by the Bill we are seeking to carry over, but future trade deals.”
Ms McCarthy also joined other MPs, including Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, in criticising the Government’s broader approach to trade policy, claiming the Bill limited opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny.
Under the terms of the Bill, Ministers will be given the power to amend secondary legislation covering the EU’s existing trade agreements with other countries – which the Government says have already been scrutinised by parliament.