Chlorinated chicken ‘will not be imported’ after Brexit

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Chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef will not be imported into the UK after Brexit, the Defra Secretary has confirmed.

Theresa Villiers told the BBC the current EU ban on the two controversial methods of food production will pass into UK legislation.

Stringent EU rules currently limit numerous pesticides, veterinary drugs like growth hormones, and pathogen reduction treatments such as chlorine washing, that are allowed under US agriculture rules.

UK farm groups have consistently warned that granting lower-standard food imports would effectively undercut domestic produce made to higher standards.

In an interview with BBC’s Countryfile, Ms Villiers said: “We will not be importing chlorinated-chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef.

“Both of those are illegal under EU law, which we are importing into our domestic system.

“There are legal barriers to their import and those are going to stay in place.”

The Environment Secretary said the government would “hold the line” in any trade negotiations with the US and would “defend our national interests and our values, including our high standards of animal welfare”.

It is the first time the government has explicitly stated that chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef imports into the UK will not be allowed regardless of any new trade deal with the US.

The statement comes after Ms Villiers’ appearance at the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday (8 January) in which she suggested the UK could introduce tariffs on imports of food from countries with lower food standards.

But she had stopped short of making any promises on specific standards or maintaining the current law itself.

It follows recently leaked US-UK trade documents which show the US tried to push the UK away from the EU’s food safety standards.

American negotiators had ‘the most angst’ about EU limits to the use of chemicals in food production, it says.

These rules were repeatedly discussed over two years, with the documents in July 2018 revealing a ‘challenging and difficult’ meeting, where US officials saw ‘sanitary and phytosanitary’ (SPS) rules as the biggest ‘sticking point’.

Meanwhile, Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the UK said imported chlorinated chicken should be offered to British consumers who would then decide whether to buy it.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, has also said that the British public would have to accept chlorinated chicken as part of any trade deal between the UK and US.

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