A row of butchered chickens hanging up.

‘Don’t sell lower-quality imported food,’ retailers are urged

Academics, charities and campaigners write to big supermarkets amid concern over compromised food standards in post-Brexit trade deals.
22 June 2020 , Katie Coyne

Supermarkets are being publicly urged to back UK high food production standards and only sell food from other countries of the same quality as the UK’s.

Eleven organisations, including CIEH, plus 15 academics have written to the big grocery retailers to persuade them to back UK standards.

Fears have grown around reports that the government is about to water down food, animal welfare and environmental standards in order to do a trade deal with the US.

While concern with the US trade talks are most pressing, backing UK standards would apply to all food from other countries under any other future trade deals.

Each of the nine big retailers has been contacted. The letter said: “To allow the import of food produced to lesser standards of food safety, animal welfare, antibiotics stewardship and environmental protection (including tackling climate change) could we believe raise public health concerns, add further to health inequalities and would undermine the livelihoods of UK farmers and lower the quality of some of the food available to UK consumers.”

An appendix has been included in the letter highlighting some of the issues that would arise were standards to be lowered to do a deal with the US including the use of growth hormones, currently banned in the UK, in beef, pigs and dairy cows.

These include issues around use of pesticides linked to cancers and miscarriage, extremely high use of antibiotics, and potential for this to fuel “dangerous anti-microbial resistance”. Concerns that the UK food labelling described as the “cornerstone of the UK's current public health strategy” is at odds with the US’s policy.

Signatories to the letter include: Compassion in World Farming, Farmwel, Food Ethics Council, Friends of the Earth UK, Green Alliance, Nature Friendly Farming Network, Pesticide Action Network UK, Sustain, Sustainable Food Trust, Vet Sustain.

Academics signing it included: Prof Tim Lang, Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London; Tony Lewis, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester; Prof Erik Millstone, SPRU, University of Sussex; and Dr Rosalind Sharp, Food Research Collaboration, City, University of London.

You can read the letter here.

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