Waitrose has vowed never to sell any food which does not meet the UK’s high standards, branding any regression in future trade deals a ‘backwards step’.
In an open letter to Waitrose customers featured in the retailer’s Weekend magazine, executive director James Bailey warned failed attempts to protect food production standards in post-Brexit trade policy had caused ‘immediate concern’ for farmers.
But he reinforced the supermarket’s commitment to ’championing’ local British produce, and promised it would not be undermined by future trade deals.
He said: “We have long championed responsible practices and have built our business on a foundation of integrity, fairness and innovation. We have no intention of deviating from those principles.
“While we must recognise the important and difficult task the Government has in securing our future trade relations, we must point out that any regression from the standards we have pioneered over the last 30 years, would be an unacceptable and backwards step.”
The letter follows a recent campaign by the NFU, which saw more than one million people sign a petition urging Government to put laws in place to prevent UK food standards being undermined by future imports.
Mr Bailey went on to claim the USA’s production of hormone-treated beef and extensive use of antibiotics would ‘seriously undermine public health’, as well as creating a scenario which could see farmers undercut in the event of a UK-US trade deal.
“It would be simply wrong to maintain high standards at home yet import food from overseas that has been produced to lower standards,” he said.
“We would be closing our eyes to a problem that exists in another part of the world and to animals who are out of our sight and our minds. I feel sure customers will share our view.”
Stressing the retailer’s pledge to uphold its high standards, Mr Bailey added: “We promise we will never sell any Waitrose product that does not meet our own high standards.
“This promise is regardless of the outcome of any trade deal.
“It is our promise to you. It is our promise to farmers. It is our promise to the nation.”