/ Food & Drink

What’s next for our food standards?

Our research has shown time and time again how strongly people across the UK feel about upholding our food standards. Here’s a recap of the progress we’ve made.

With the strength of public feeling towards protecting our food standards in mind, we launched our Save Our Food Standards campaign due to concerns that future food standards could be weakened and compromised by trade deals.

Our focus was ensuring the Agriculture Bill firmed up Government commitments to maintain UK food standards in the future.

As a reminder, Which? and many other organisations were concerned how easily UK food standards could be changed, with very little scrutiny, in light of a trade deal which diminished standards. 

Thousands of you joined the campaign and added your voice to why this issue was important to you – contacting your MPs, sharing your messages for the government and signing our petition – putting the consumer voice front and centre of the debate. 

The Bill has now been completed so we wanted to update you on the outcome and the progress made. 

Improvements to the Bill

To start with, the Bill was changed, but not as extensively as we had hoped. While the House of Lords did amend the Bill to add an explicit section around upholding food standards, this was sadly defeated in the House of Commons. 

However, we did see some improvement. Firstly, the government amended the Bill to ensure that in the future there would be more scrutiny of trade deals in respect to human, animal or plant life or health, animal welfare and the environment. 

Secondly, in response to our joint letter with 56 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, the government provided further detail of their commitments to uphold food standards, helping to answer outstanding questions.

Finally, the government agreed to put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a more permanent and statutory footing – to be reviewed every three years, rather than ending in February.

The Commission was set up initially for six months to inform top-level trade policy and negotiations. Moving forward, it will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the government signs. 

This is good progress, and we couldn’t have done it without your support, so thank you!

What’s next for our work on food standards?

While the Agriculture Bill and this phase of our campaign is concluded, we’ll continue to ensure – as part of our wider trade work – to ensure commitments to uphold UK food standards are kept to.

We will also be working hard to ensure that consumer expertise is represented on the Trade and Agriculture Commission, and that the Commission robustly scurintises food standards in the public interest as part of its work. 

Overall, it’s vital trade deals deliver for consumers – be it on food, digital issues, product safety and many more areas – we’ll be keeping a close eye and ensuring the opportunity is taken to champion consumers. 


I’d like to know what happens now? Will our current food safety standards, which are an example to the world, be maintained which is absolutely essential as in some cases dodgy and unsafe food could lead to some folk being born with dreadful deformities and/or absolutely life destroying severe disabilities, often well hidden but which still absolutely destroy entire lives and I know all too well what that’s like as I’ve had nearly 60 years of it and it’s absolute hell.

R M Closuit says:
10 December 2020

The closely related matter of species survival has rightly come to the fore recently. Food production on the scale required, to feed the world’s steadily increasing population adequately, impinges on those concerns. It would only be right for this issue to remain connected to that of food standards.

ade williams says:
10 December 2020

We all -or as many as possible who can-need to keep a close watch on what this Government does and plans to do so that our food standards are kept high. The danger of US chicken etc is receding but not gone and also we have seen that our own Prime Minister is prepared to blatantly break international law to prop up his fanatical views, what else is he prepared to sacrifice if he and his ministers deem necessary? Food is probably going to be a priority very shortly so they will be looking for new food supplies and likely be prepared to compromise

Our government yes! the prime minister as well are not doing well for us. Many of the people say “well they’re only human” but we put these people in to work for us wisely. They must hold out for our standards.
Today I hear the pm. might not get a good deal for us with brexit, or even not get any deal.How sad.!

Karol says:
10 December 2020

I Would like to insist on labelling the contry of product origin, producer – not repacker or sale company and clearly label the GMO

Frances Samuels says:
10 December 2020

I totally agree with the views expressed above

John C Berridge says:
10 December 2020

All farmers are extremely concerned regarding the reduction of animals to help reduce the on going problems of our climate change, i guess this would mean importing , to fulfil the market gap.
May i ask how many animals equalise the flight of one plane on an average journey, and also how many animals equalise one of the many ships, carrying freight and passengers around the world, who i might add, change the fuel they burn to a less refined fuel once out on the high seas away from land.

We need to remain vigilant. The main purpose of Brexit is to de-regulate. The government will not admit it but we are heading for a no deal and the reason is de-regulation.
We need a campaign against complacency and ignorance on food standards.

It is essential that we maintain and improve on our current food standards. A no deal Brexit is not the excuse to import from the EU substandard food. Our supermarkets need to advise where the food has come from even though it may show it is home based. Any practice to repackage imported food and it be passed on as home produced should be made illegal (if not done so already). In fact a no deal Brexit should be the impetus for the government to support increase in home produced food and decrease in imported food. We may have to get used to seasonal food production and not expect same foods all the year round. Further if there is continued food waste then there is a major problem in supermarkets over supplying and families not being able to get into the habit of buying what is required on a weekly basis. This may need families shopping at local supermarkets more than once a week.

If until now, the EU has maintained high shared expectations in food standards, why would the UK suddenly be at enhanced risk of unsatisfactory food from the EU? Surely, the major risk is the US and beyond looking for new markets for their intensive farming output. I agree with all the comments here – food labelling must surely be a large part of the answer although identifying the origin of products within processed food must be problematic.

Surely to God we have enough chickens, beef stock, etc in this country not to have to import it from abroad. But I do agree with other comments regarding country of origin. This must be clearly labelled on the packaging

Wilma Baird says:
11 December 2020

I agree 100% that our food standards must be kept and not jeapordised or compromised

Georgina Mann says:
11 December 2020

Animal welfare must be at the top of the list – if people knew of the awful conditions and treatment suffered in some places they would surely become veggies…

Today (according to The Sun newspaper – only one that I have read so far) it is looking increasing likely that we may leave the EU with no deal. In my opinion this would be better than the demands being made by the bullying EU.
How about investing in our country and people (opening up job opportunities) by producing much more of our own food. Possibly community farms with large greenhouses growing fruit and vegetables, powered by solar panels, ground source heat pumps etc.
We apparently have some of the best scientists in the world – why do we not produce our own medicines? More job opportunities.
Along with Japanese manufacturers we could produce cars – without the need to import very expensive ones from Germany.
I shall end now otherwise I would go on and on!!

E Olnick says:
11 December 2020

Sun newspaper – that clearly identifies why you say what you say. Please read more widely and broaden your views as to why Brexit, deal or no deal, will adversely affect this country which has no chance of feeding itself without imports.

Well done Which? for furthering the cause of food standards. I have to admit though to being underwhelmed by the prospect of the government ensuring ‘more scrutiny’ in future (for the way is which trade deals might impact upon people, animals and the environment). I have very little confidence in such a claim – not least, because ‘more scrutiny’ is not measurable. It could just mean that possible concerns may be debated in parliament but then so easily discarded in the same way as upholding current food standards has been.

Judith says:
11 December 2020

The government will SCRUTINISE trade deals? Does that mean they can ignore food standard concerns if it sits them.?

This Government which during the pandemic has been obsessed with providing American outsourcing companies with lucrative contracts as a priority over some more experienced home grown companies is not to be trusted. Especially now as it becomes apparent that there will not be an acceptable trade deal with the EU by Brexit finalisation. All sorts of blurring statements will be issued (which our Prime Minister seems good at) to smother concerns, but behind the scenes, we will get what junk the US wants to dump here. We are a good market for American excesses, be it in junk TV entertainment or fast food chains selling addictive fatty high protein foods and sugary drinks etc., which have already taken our country by storm. In no small part to those, we now have some of the highest obesity levels in the World. Our Government dare not argue too long with American negotiators and I foresee defences against what we see as less wholesome food production methods being eroded in time. But good luck with the campaign. 🙂

Mrs Sheila Garcia says:
11 December 2020

I do agree that we must uphold our food standards plus we need to know where the food is coming from. Therefore Country of Origin is vital.

The USA has an even higher cancer rate than Britain. If we ate their food, which is produced with toxic pesticides which are banned here, and hormone-fed meat, then our cancer rate would undoubtedly increase too. It is high enough already as half of people in the UK now get cancer during their lifetime. We need more naturally produced food.

Actually, that’s not true. The rate of cancer is roughly the same in the UK and the US when adjusted for population numbers, while the death from cancer stats, again per head, is slightly higher in the UK.

I am no enthusiast for the generally greater use of hormones and pesticides in the US but there are so many factors (e.g. environmental, lifestyle, etc.) that change the risk of cancers that it could be difficult to make useful comparisons, plus the fact that there are numerous types of cancer.

Being in my 70’s I remember lots of home produced food when growing up and also lots of farms and dairies where I lived in Liverpool. Getting married then moving to Widnes there were 7 farms in the area now there are none all of the land is houses or roads. Farms seem to have been sold for money now etc. So we have become dependent on other Countries for a lot of our food which is very sad.

JohnHughes says:
14 January 2021

Ensure that the public know exactly what unnatural food and hormones are fed to the animals that are bred for meat

Sue Kill says:
25 January 2021

Parliament passed legislation removing protection from the NHS and animal welfare standards last week. Is there nothing we can do?