News: US official slams ‘old fashioned’ EU food standards for not allowing in chlorinated chicken

News: US official slams ‘old fashioned’ EU food standards for not allowing in chlorinated chicken

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A senior US official has dismissed concerns over chlorinated chicken entering the UK after Brexit, saying they are “unfounded”.

Ken Isley, the Foreign Agricultural Service administrator, criticised EU food standards as “old-fashioned”.

He defended the use of the chemical to wash poultry, a practice banned in the EU, saying it is being replaced by the use of acetic acid.

Critics of using chlorine and other substances to strip bacteria from chicken say the process can be a “desperate attempt” to correct poorer hygiene standards earlier in the production process.

Donald Trump’s administration wishes to eliminate or reduce the barrier to exporting agricultural products to the UK in a trade deal to be brokered after Brexit.

The US Department of Agriculture official said fears about standards in the States, which are held by people including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, are based on “myths”.

“I think the concerns and fear are unfounded. I would stack US food safety and our food safety record against anywhere in the world,” Mr Isley said.

“Chlorinated chicken is an example. That practice and processing is very, very limited in the US now and is being phased out, not for food safety reasons but because newer technologies become available.”

Asked what new technology exists, he responded: “There’s acetic acid, is one of them.”

Mr Isley criticised the current standards in the EU, and by extension the UK, as he defended those in the States.

“It’s not lower food safety standards, it’s different and more advanced and more modern than what you find in Europe,” he said.

“In a lot of ways it (the EU approach) is old-fashioned, it’s based on traditions, not based on modern science and technology.”

Caroline Normand, policy director for the Which? consumer group, said “lax standards” in the US are one reason official figures suggest the rate of food poisonings there is around 10 times higher than the UK.

“The problem with chlorinated chicken and similar treatments is that they are too often used as a desperate attempt to make up for widespread safety problems in the US food production process, which can leave bacteria like salmonella to run rampant,” she said.

“Brexit is an opportunity to design a joined-up food and farming policy that ensures food is produced to the highest standards – the nation’s health needs must not be used as a bargaining chip that could be given away to facilitate trade.”

Compromise

Mr Gove has said the UK should not accept chlorinated chicken in the marketplace, or “compromise” or “dilute” animal welfare standards in any future trade deal with the States.

The National Farmer’s Union has also raised concerns over food safety, warning it is “imperative” that a deal bans “imports of food produced to lower standards than those required of British farmers”.

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Although unable to produce a specific figure, Mr Isley said that less than 20% of US poultry is currently treated with chlorine. 

He was speaking to a group of UK journalists in a bid to “dispel some myths” surrounding US food production ahead of a food convention in Chicago. 

The talks came the same day as the city’s Tribune newspaper carried a full-page advert from the Animal Equality campaign group calling for McDonald’s to “eliminate the worst abuses endured by chickens used for your menu”.



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