Lower food standards pose ‘significant’ risk to public health, report warns

Lowering food standards as part of post-Brexit trade deals poses “significant health risks” to the British public, a new report has warned.

Opening the door to cheaper imports such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef increases the likelihood of antibiotic resistance when treating humans due to their overuse associated with intensive animal production, according to the campaign group Save British Farming.

The report, titled The Hidden Damage to Public Health, also claims that undermining the highly-regulated animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards adhered to by British farmers could lead to rising cancer rates if more “ultra-processed” food is allowed to enter the home market.

A stock image of a raw chicken on a chopping board. Farming leaders fear that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US could result in UK consumers eating chlorinated turkey, chicken and other poultry that has been washed in chemicals
A stock image of a raw chicken on a chopping board. Farming leaders fear that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US could result in UK consumers eating chlorinated turkey, chicken and other poultry that has been washed in chemicals
(Image: Nick Ansell / PA Wire)

Liz Webster, founder of Save British Farming, which is lobbying MPs for their support to amend the Agriculture Bill to ensure British standards are upheld, said: “Boris Johnson’s Government was elected to govern with a firm manifesto to uphold our exceptional environmental protections, animal welfare and food standards. Recent polls have shown a huge majority of 80-90% of British people are united against lowering standards.

“However, it’s become increasingly clear this Government is committed to going against the will of the people by ensuring our domestic legislation will open the doors to products with lower standards which will ensure huge changes to our food and countryside.

“We are campaigning to raise awareness of the tsunami of harm that confronts us in the hope that, as legislature comes back to the Commons, our elected representatives unite to amend the Agriculture and Trade Bills to ensure ‘Britain not America first’.”

The report is authored by specialist elderly care dietician, Gabrielle Morse, who said: “I have supported two London hospitals during the pandemic and I have been responsible for identifying and treating a diverse group of patients who are a risk of malnutrition.

British farmers adhere to some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards in the world
British farmers adhere to some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards in the world
(Image: Clare Green)

“My acute and community experience has allowed me to see first-hand how an individual’s socio-economic status determines the quality of their diet and their overall health.”

Commenting on the Save British Farming report, David George, from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in the South West, said: “We’d certainly agree that standards must be preserved in any trade deals, whether that’s with the US or anywhere else.

“The fact that a million people signed the NFU’s petition calling for standards to be maintained would suggest the public is in agreement – we are keeping up the political pressure ahead of the return of Parliament and Back British Farming Day in September.”

The report follows the launch of the Government’s new Trade and Agriculture Commission, which met for the first time at the end of July. Members from retailers, farming unions, consumer, hospitality and environmental bodies will report directly to the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, advising on future trade deals and ensuring that Britain’s high animal welfare and environmental standards are not undermined, while also opening up new export opportunities for home-produced goods.

Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade
Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade
(Image: Jonathan Brady / PA Wire)

Speaking at the time of the Commission’s launch, George Eustice, the Environment Secretary and MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, said: “We have been consistently clear that we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in all of our trade negotiations.

“The Agriculture and Trade Commission will ensure that the UK’s agricultural industry, our support for farmers and our commitment to high welfare standards are maintained. This Government will work hard to ensure any future trade deals are in their best interests and will prioritise both food production and our world-leading environmental targets.”

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