CIEH highlighted that following closer examination of the recent FTA with Australia, the International Trade Committee concluded that Australian food and drink exporters would not be required to meet UK core food production standards.
The fear is that Australian food products will not be subject to the same standards and UK farmers will be significantly undercut and unable to compete with cheaper produce entering the market from Australia.
Public health risk
CIEH said that there is also the potential public health risk of lower quality food flooding the UK market.
It added that widespread concern already surrounds the UK Government’s recently tabled Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill with many fearing it will result in a weakening in regulatory frameworks vital in ensuring robust environmental health standards.
CIEH is urging the Government to prioritise maintaining the high food and environmental standards when entering future FTAs.
Ross Matthewman, head of policy and campaigns for the CIEH, said: “Despite consistent assurances from a string of Environmental Secretaries to the contrary, it appears that our concerns that food and animal welfare standards would be threatened in the pursuit of trade deals have been realised.
“The recent report from the International Trade Committee is yet another concerning confirmation that this government is embarking upon a course of action that will see the weakening of vital regulatory frameworks designed to maintain good public health."
Matthewman highlighted that CIEH had already expressed concern about the recently tabled Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill calling it a regressive deregulatory step that threatens public health. CIEH said it is concerned that as the government embarks upon future FTAs, regulatory standards will continue to weaken.
“There are also serious questions about how importing cheaper food from the other side of the world impacts on the UK’s food security or sustainability, or how it helps the Government meet its wider environmental pledges or commitment to achieving net-zero,” he added.
“We would urge the government to change course, to recognise the vital importance regulatory frameworks play in maintaining high standards of public health and would stress that the weakening of these standards in pursuit of free trade deals is not a price worth paying”