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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 22 January, 2020

Talk of post-Brexit 'chlorinated chicken and hormone beef' is a 'smear campaign', claims US envoy

The US ambassador to the UK says the public is being misled.

Chicken carcasses in a factory.
Chicken carcasses in a factory.
Image: Shutterstock

THE US AMBASSADOR to the UK has attacked what he described as a “smear” campaign against American food, dismissing criticism about its produce as “myths”.

Woody Johnson said in an article published in the Daily Telegraph that US food products are safe, and that scare stories about “chlorine-washed chicken” and “hormone-pumped beef” are being used to mislead the public.

The comments come amid claims from Brexiteer politicians that they will seek trade deals with other countries, including the US, when the UK leaves the bloc. 

This led to claims that the UK would abandon EU food standards and a be open to importing food items with differing standards. 

The most publicized example was the possible importation of chlorinated chicken. 

Chlorinated chicken – or chlorine-treated chicken – refers to chicken carcasses that have been treated with antimicrobial rinses to remove harmful bacteria. The practice is common in the US but banned in the EU.

But speaking to The Telegraph, Johnson dismissed such talk as scaremongering. 

“You have been presented with a false choice: either stick to EU directives, or find yourselves flooded with American food of the lowest quality,” Johnson wrote.

Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light. It is time the myths are called out for what they really are: a smear campaign.

Johnson says American producers use “scientific” and “technological” tools to feed a growing global population, in contrast to the European Union’s “Museum of Agriculture.”

When asked about allowing the import of such chicken in 2017, Environment Secretary Michael Gove flatly denied that it would not be allowed, saying that the UK would not “dilute our high animal welfare standards” in pursuit of a trade deal.

The UK’s National Farmers Union had also raised concerns about US practices, saying trade deals shouldn’t allow imports produced “to lower standards than those required of British farmers.”

While the president of the union, Minette Batters, did not dispute that chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef were “safe,” she said other factors were worth considering in the debate about whether it should be allowed.

“Our consumer has demanded high standards of animal welfare, we’ve risen to that challenge,” she told BBC News.

“He (Johnson) is right to make the point that food security is crucially important, we would say the same. But all we’re saying is: ‘Produce the food to our standards and we’ll have a trade deal’.”

- With reporting by Associated Press

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Rónán Duffy

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