Workers’ union demands clarity over US imports

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Workers’ union demands clarity over US imports

Related tags Beef Poultry

UK workers’ union Unite has called on the government to provide clarity over the potential for a trade deal that could allow US meat products into the country.

There has been long-running concerns over allowing hormone-treated beef and chlorinated chicken from the US into the UK supply chain if a trade deal was to be agreed upon.

These concerns have been stoked by recent comments made by the head of the American Farm Bureau, Zippy Duvall, over perceived standards. In an interview with the BBC he said that UK fears were “not science based”​.

“There is no scientific basis that says that washing poultry with a chlorine wash just to be safe of whatever pathogens might be on that chicken as it was prepared for the market, should be taken away,”​ he explained. "If there was something wrong with it our federal inspection systems would not be allowing us to use that."

Duvall added that UK consumers should be given the opportunity to buy these products if they choose.

Unite national officer for food, drink and agricultural Bev Clarkson said: “We want a clear statement from Theresa Villiers, secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that she will not sell out our food workers in any deal with Trump.

“There is a good reason why the EU banned chlorinated chicken in the late 1990s – it feared it could mask poor hygiene standards. We believe that public health standards could be compromised if such chicken and also hormone enhanced US beef were allowed to be sold in the UK.”

She warned that allowing US produce of this nature to be imported into the UK could lead to job losses. “Because of the threat of tariff free access for 90 per cent of imports, this could drive down prices in the supermarkets, which, in turn, could lead to food processing plants in the UK shedding thousands of jobs.

“This is because it costs more to maintain food health standards in the UK  and processing food firms won’t be able to compete with cheaper US food with its light touch regulatory framework.

“This will lead to UK producers lowering their standards to compete. It would also hamper future trade relations with the EU, which would place heavier restrictions on any remaining poultry produce imported from the UK.

“Cheaper prices in the supermarkets may appear attractive in the short-term, but there will be a longer-term detrimental cost. That’s why chlorinated chicken is the thin end of the wedge that has much wider ramifications for the public and UK economy.”

Earlier this month, a trade deal was reached to triple the amount of hormone-free beef that the US could export to the EU​.

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