Reports from an alleged leaked document claimed that Liz Truss' Department for International Trade (DIT) would press ministers to lower the standards in order to seal a US trade deal, as uncertainty surrounding Brexit continues.
Defra would come under “significant pressure” to relax the UK’s food, animal health and environmental standards to win a deal with President Donald Trump, the reports claimed.
However, Defra told Food Manufacture that these concerns were unfounded at this stage.
“We do not comment on leaked documents,” a spokesman said. “The UK is a world leader on animal welfare and environmental standards, and we will not water down our standards as part of trade negotiations.”
But, there remains significant concern among food producers that Truss’ alleged proposals will water down standards and create a “two-tier system” that will see those with fewer resources forced to accept unsafe food.
“It is vital that trade deals post-Brexit recognise the high standards to which Britain produces food. British farmers have worked incredibly hard to build a food system that enhances British food values and ensures high standards of production from farm to fork,” said British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths.
“We simply cannot afford to compromise on our high standards of animal welfare and food safety and accept trade products that do not meet our current standards.
“If food produced to lower standards is allowed to enter the British market, it will create a two-tier food system, in which only the affluent can afford to eat British food grown to British standards. This is unacceptable.”
The BPC is now calling for a Government-wide commitment that production standards of imported food must meet British standards as a condition of entry.
“Government must do everything it can to enable British food producers to carry on putting food on every table and ensure no one is left behind,” Griffiths added.
Yesterday (7 October), Food Manufacture revealed that the UK Government had issued a warning to poultry producers about the ongoing threat from winter avian flu.