BPC rejects chlorine-washed chicken trade deal

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

The British Poultry Council opposed a bilateral trade deal with the US, which would allow chlorine-washed chicken to be imported into the UK
The British Poultry Council opposed a bilateral trade deal with the US, which would allow chlorine-washed chicken to be imported into the UK

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A bilateral trade deal between the US and UK, allowing the import of chlorine-washed chickens after Brexit, has been opposed by the British Poultry Council (BPC).

The BPC’s opposition came amid reports trade secretary Liam Fox would be willing to lift the EU-enforced ban on chlorine-washed chicken, to secure a quick trans-Atlantic trade deal.

The BPC said it wouldn’t support importing chlorinated chicken – a way of removing bacterial contamination on chicken – which is banned by the EU for health reasons. Its comments came after Fox refused to rule out loosening the ban in a bid to secure a quick trade deal with the US, where chlorine-washed chicken is legal.

BPC chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “The UK poultry meat industry stands committed to feeding the nation with nutritious food and any compromise on standards will not be tolerated.

“A secure post-Brexit deal must be about Britain’s future food security and safety. This is a matter of our reputation on the global stage.”

The BPC urged the government to back British farming and its world-leading food safety standards.

Poor food hygiene practices

The EU banned chlorine-washed chicken in 1997 after fears it could encourage poor food hygiene practices in abattoirs, because workers would rely on the chemical washing of chicken at the end of the slaughtering process.

It was also feared that a bilateral deal with the US would pave the way for hormone-fed beef and genetically modified crops – both of which are also sold in the US – to be widely available in the UK.

It was reported this week​ that Fox wanted to import chlorine-washed chicken, as it was safe to eat and 20% cheaper to produce. According to the reports, there was a cabinet split on the issue, with Fox and foreign secretary Boris Johnson both wanting to lift the ban, while environment secretary Michael Gove was against the plan, it was claimed.

At a media briefing on July 24, a Number 10 spokesman reportedly said: “Our priority when it comes to food is that maintaining the safety and public confidence in the food we eat is of the highest priority.

“Any future trade deal must work for UK farmers, businesses and consumers.”

Responding to the reports, Fox – who is in Washington DC to negotiate a US trade deal – reportedly said: “The British media are obsessed with chlorine-washed chickens – a detail of the very end stage of one sector of a potential free-trade agreement.


“We work on the premise that the British press corps in Washington never eat American chicken or beef when they are here due to their health worries.”

Campaign group Open Britain challenged Fox to eat chlorine-washed chicken live on television, after reports said he was “open”​ to lifting the ban.

Open Britain executive director, James McGrory, said: “If the trade secretary wants the public to trust him, he needs to take the opportunity while he’s in the US and devour a chlorine-washed chicken live on camera. The choice of recipe is up to him, but one serving suggestion might be ‘chlorination chicken’.

“The proof of the chicken is in the eating, and if Fox thinks it’s safe, he should put his money where his mouth is. If he doesn’t, he is just chicken.”

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted today that its special relationship with the UK was beginning a new chapter, after Fox met with the US trade representative.

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1 comment

Not the point

Posted by Martin Hardwidge,

The key issue here is not the safety or otherwise of chlorinated chicken. The issue is that as soon as we have different standards from the EU, then they have no choice but to erect barriers and checks to make sure that unapproved products aren't exported to the EU from here. Not only that but as soon as the process is approved for US imports then manufacturers here will be under pressure to install chlorination lines to compete on price. Where's your free trade with the EU then?

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