A petition to maintain high food standards on all imports has attracted almost 830,000 signatures in just three days.
The National Farmers Union posted the petition on Friday (5 June) and aims to reach one million signatures. The union said COVID-19 had highlighted the importance of food security and traceability.
The petition urged the government to put into law rules to ensure all foods being imported meet the same high standards – around safety, traceability, welfare and environmental standards – expected of UK farmers.
An opportunity was missed last month to maintain existing UK food standards in law at the end of the transition period. And campaigners were incensed last week when plans were revealed to allow chlorinated chicken into the UK from the US under higher tariffs, despite previous and multiple reassurances by the government that this would not happen.
On World Food Safety Day, Gary McFarlane, CIEH’s Northern Ireland director with a special interest in food and Brexit, said he hoped “every EHP in the UK [would] support this NFU campaign and sign.”
Over the weekend the NFU wrote to the Sunday Times rebutting a column by Dominic Lawson that its food standards position was “protectionist”. NFU president Minette Batters wrote: “This is simply not the case. In fact, the NFU has welcomed the prospect of trade deals in the years ahead, as long as they are on fair terms.
“We welcomed the government’s recent UK Global Tariff which reduced rather than increased tariffs. And we continue to oppose the prospect of trading with the EU on WTO terms, which would be the largest single increase in trade barriers in modern history – a bout of protectionism that Mr Lawson seems quite happy to countenance.
“More to the point, our position on trade and food standards is shared by many more than just farmers. Over 60 NGOs, civil society groups and farming organisations wrote to the Prime Minister on the matter in January, and research by the consumer organisation Which? shows it is also overwhelmingly supported by consumers.”
The Mail on Sunday is backing the petition as part of its Save Our Family Farm campaign, and enlisted the support of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. It wrote that former Conservative farming ministers Sir Nicholas Soames and Theresa Villiers were also against watering down standards.