We’ve written to the government to ask it to clarify its commitment to protecting UK food standards in light of future trade deals. Here’s our letter in full.
Dear Secretaries of State,
We are writing to ask the government to clarify its commitment to protecting UK food standards in light of future trade deals.
The UK has a world leading food standards system and these standards are of great importance to the British public, who have been emphatically clear about their desire for the UK’s high food standards, including animal welfare and food safety to be protected in all trade negotiations.
Which? research shows nine in 10 (95%) believe it is important for the UK to maintain existing food standards.
The public has remained united in its opposition to the possibility of lower standard food such as chlorine-washed chicken or hormone injected beef entering the UK.
Around three-quarters (74%) told Which? they objected to importing food produced using lower standards.
Those in lower socioeconomic households were less likely than those in higher socioeconomic households to think lower standard food should be available in the UK, for both groups support for such a change was low – 11% and 16%.
Consumers should be confident in the safety and standard of the food they purchase, regardless of their budget.
Some argue that upholding standards limits consumer choice, however, the overwhelming majority want standards maintained.
Further to this, there would in many cases be no real choice given how much food is consumed out of home in hospitals, schools and restaurants where labelling would not be provided. Even in supermarkets making an informed choice would be difficult when food of a lower standard was used in processed products.
We recognise that the government has made commitments to honour its manifesto promise not to compromise on the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.
The government has said it has not included these commitments in the Trade or Agriculture Bills due to pre-existing legislation covering these issues. However, there remains public concern about how easily these laws could be changed using secondary legislation.
To provide reassurance and clarity on this issue we are calling on the government to confirm that it will uphold food standards by maintaining the bans on chicken treated with chlorine and beef injected with hormones, and that it will not, at any stage, ask this Parliament to remove these bans from the statute books.
We also ask for clarification regarding what is included in the scope of the government’s commitment to uphold food standards so people can have confidence that standards will not be undermined.
As Parliament resumes and trade negotiations enter their next stages, it is vital that the government reassures the public and sends a strong and positive message to trading partners that the UK is ready to strike ambitious trade deals on the basis of working together to improve food standards.
Anabel Hoult, Chief Executive, Which?