BANNED food imports such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef could be sold in Britain as part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, it was claimed yesterday.
Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers had insisted they would remain off the table amid animal welfare and environmental fears.
But her replacement George Eustice (pictured), appearing on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, refused to rule it out.
With the government expected to publish its negotiating position for a free trade deal with the US soon, Mr Eustice said that there are ‘no plans’ to change the law and said it would not ‘take risks’ on standards of welfare.
‘We’ve got a clear position that it is illegal to sell chlorine-washed chicken and beef treated with hormones,’ he said. ‘We have no plans to change those things.’
Mr Eustice claimed the practice of washing chicken in chlorine to remove harmful bacteria was outdated. ‘What they tend to use these days are lactic acid washes,’ he said. His comments sparked a backlash from campaigners and consumer groups who warned of a ‘genuine risk’.
Which? called on ministers to legislate to ‘ensure current high principles are preserved and reinforced in future trade deals’.
Sue Davies, its head of consumer protection and food policy, said: ‘It is astonishing that instead of improved food safety and health, chemical washing techniques for chick-en and hormone-treated beef are still being left on the negotiating table.’ National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters called for added legal protections to prevent imports ‘that fail to meet our food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards’.
Labour’s shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: ‘Chlorinated chicken being sold in Britain is a genuine risk, unless this back door to lower standard US goods imports is closed and a ban is put into law.’