The British Poultry Council has said washing chicken with chlorine is a “short-cut” when it comes to food safety.
The national trade body that represents the UK poultry meat industry, told BritShish that “British poultry producers don’t dip their chicken carcasses in chlorine as we do not believe in ‘cleaning up at the end’ or taking any short-cuts when it comes to producing safe food. Using chemicals to disinfect food at the end of a production process can hide a multitude of sins, but what it can’t hide is the need for their use in the first place.”
The comments come against the backdrop of a potential post-Brexit trade deal between the United Kingdom and United States, which if successfully concluded, could see chlorinated chicken enter British markets.
The Poultry Council also told BritShish that Britain should not lower its own food and animal welfare standards to gain foreign trade beyond the European Union. “British farmers have worked incredibly hard to build a food system that enhances British food values and ensures high standards of production from farm to fork” the representative body said, “As a nation we demand safe, wholesome, and nutritious food; world-class animal welfare; production that respects the environment; food that is affordable and available; and a sustainable and secure supply chain. It is vital that we don’t lower our food standards, of which animal welfare is an integral part, in pursuit of new trade deals.
“That is why we are calling for a Government-wide commitment that production standards of imported food will have to meet British standards as a condition of entry. We look forward to engaging constructively with Government over the coming months to ensure that we don’t come compromise on our high standards of production and accept trade products that do not meet our current standards of food production” the organisation added.
However, a report from the free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute has claimed that the American meat producers’ practice of immersing poultry in chlorine dioxide solution drastically reduces the prevalence of salmonella from 14% to 2% in controls, compared with 15-20% among EU chicken samples.
The use of the solution has been a major point of contention between the EU and US in trade negotiations. The EU has expressed concerns that the use of cleaning methods like chlorine-washing gives American producers an excuse for having poor hygiene and animal welfare practices on farms and at other parts of the supply chain. Poultry cleaned in this way is currently illegal in the EU.
In turn the US has said this ban lacks scientific evidence and has accused the EU of pursuing a policy of protectionism in favour of European poultry producers.
The UK Government has insisted that chlorine-washed chicken and beef that has been treated with hormones would be kept out of British markets even if Britain reaches a deal with the US. The Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Theresa Villiers told BBC Countryfile in January that “There are legal barriers to the imports and those are going to stay in place.” Prior to this the Defra Secretary had considered slapping tariffs on any future American chicken and beef imports.