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Are food standards being eroded?

Government repeats promises to maintain standards post-Brexit, but trade talks tell a different story.
10 June 2020 , Katie Coyne

Unease that UK food standards are in jeopardy is growing – fuelled by a lack of consistency between reports on trade talks with the US and Whitehall promises.

Ahead of the second reading of the Agriculture Bill in the Lords today, the government has been trying to gather support.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has formally written to MPs and Lords. The letter was sent out on Friday (5 June) from MPs George Eustice and Elizabeth Truss, which said the government “remained firmly committed to upholding our high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards outside the EU”.

It stated that the government “will not compromise on our standards” which included a ban on artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products, and that only potable water be used to decontaminate poultry carcasses.

In the letter they counselled that any changes to safety legislation would require new legislation. These reassurances were also given following the defeat of an amendment to the Agriculture Bill as it passed through the Commons that would have enshrined UK food standards in law.

Eustice and Truss wrote: “All parts of the UK should be proud of our world-leading food, health and animal welfare standards and we will not lower our standards as we negotiate new trade deals”.

Yet just a few days later, the government revealed it was considering a dual tariff deal with the UK to allow chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef into the UK.

CIEH has been lobbying MPs to maintain the UKs high food standards, and received a response from Greg Hands MP still promising to uphold the UK’s high food standards. He wrote: “The UK’s reputation for quality and performance is what drives demand for UK goods and is key to our long-term prosperity. The government has no intention of harming this reputation in pursuit of a trade deal.”

While Hands repeated many of the claims made previously – that legislation would be needed to make changes to food standards – he did not specifically mention or deny reports that the government was considering a dual tariff deal to allow US products of lower standards into the UK.


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