Recently I have had lots of emails from campaign groups wanting me to sign and share petitions against trade deals with Donald Trumps led USA government once the United Kingdom has ended its transition period with the European Union, (EU) over fears that our food standards would be lowered. While the UK was part of the European Union trade deals with other countries were negotiated by the EU on behalf of all members, meaning it was harder for countries like the USA to dictate the terms, and animal welfare standards along with agriculture was placed high on the agenda.
The majority of the petitions I have received revolve around chlorinated chicken from America and fears that it will soon be on our supermarket shelves without being labelled as chlorinated chicken. What these petitions failed to explain to me is what exactly are the reasons that American farmers wash their chickens in chlorine to begin with. What is it about American farming practices that makes it necessary?
The EU banned chlorinated chicken in all member states 1997 over fears of food safety. This includes concerns over reduced hygiene practices. People who advocate for the practice of washing chicken in chlorine is that it kills bacteria and reduces the risk of salmonella. Political advocates of chlorinated chicken argue that it is financially beneficial as it can reduce price by 20%, meaning people on lower incomes can still afford to buy chicken. People who argue against allowing chlorinated chicken to be sold in the UK argue that the practice leads to lower hygiene standards in abattoirs and food production factories as producers rely on the chlorine solution to rinse harmful substances from the animal. It should be added that chlorination is not believed to be harmful for consumption with both the USDA and EU food safety regulator EFSA saying it is safe when the chicken is eaten in moderation. Despite this I am personally more persuaded by the arguments against the sale of chlorinated chicken. It may be 20% cheaper however I would prefer to pay a higher price to ensure that the food I am eating has been produced to the highest standards possible with the least chemical treatment.
Below you will find an extract from the RSPCA Assured website for why they are concerned about chlorinated chicken:
Why is American chicken chlorinated?
“The reason US farmers [use chlorine washing] is because their animals are raised in such cramped conditions that the only way to stop them becoming diseased is to dunk them in chlorine,” he said. “It’s really an animal welfare issue here. If UK farmers want to compete against American imports, they’ll have to lower standards or go out of business.” – Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now warning on the implications of the UK doing a trade deal with the US.
RSPCA Assured believes in maintaining the higher animal welfare standards we’ve established in the UK. We agree with the EU that the surest way to fight salmonella and other bacteria in foods is through higher welfare standards maintained from farm to fork. While we don’t have any chlorinated chicken in the UK at the moment, the best way to support British farmers, now and in the future, and to be sure you are buying higher welfare meat, fish and dairy is to look for the RSPCA Assured logo when you shop.
If American farmers are doing this to their chickens what else could they be doing to the other animals they farm?