Consumer group Which? has written to Elizabeth Truss, secretary of state for the Department for International Trade, raising concerns about the approach the Government could take in trade negotiations with the US.
The fear is that a trade deal could see imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef with a dual tariff system.
In the letter, Sue Davies, head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?, said the UK should be proud of the strides it had made over the past two decades to ensure that, wherever people bought and ate food, this was underpinned by robust safety, quality and welfare standards.
“Since the BSE crisis, the UK has led a food safety revolution that has given us an enviable system across the food chain,” she said. “This could all be at risk depending on the approach that the Government takes when it begins a second round of trade talks with the US on Monday.”
Which? said its own research had revealed that this view was backed by consumers, as 72% did not want food of a lower standard imported into the country.
The news comes amid concerns about the Government’s failure to include amendments to the Agriculture Bill.
Which? said that, in recent weeks, it had been concerned that the opportunity had not been taken to confirm the Government’s commitment not to compromise on environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.
“UK consumers have a legitimate fear that two decades of progress on food safety and animal welfare could be traded away in just two weeks of negotiations with the US, due to the Government’s failure to provide clear assurances that food standards will be upheld,” Davies added.
“While there are many benefits to be gained from a trade deal with the US, this cannot be at the expense of our food standards and consumer confidence in what we eat.”
Which? is not the only organisation to raise concerns about the impact of a trade deal.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has urged the Government to keep its word on maintaining the UK’s high food standards and called it a “clear public health issue”.
“Despite repeated assurances from the Government, the mood music does not look good for UK food standards and animal welfare. Government appears to be retracting on previous commitments,” said Debbie Wood, executive director for membership and external affairs at CIEH.
“While a dual tariff system may promote better-quality food entering the country, it would still also be a backdoor for what we consider low-quality food produce, such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef, pouring into our market.”