Chefs and celebrities in warning against low-quality foods in new trade deals

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Celebrities and chefs including Jamie Oliver and Joe Wicks are urging the Government not to open the floodgates to low-quality food imports under post-Brexit trade deals.

In a short video posted on social media they urge the Prime Minister to “do the right thing” by protecting UK food standards and making a “Brand Britain, selling high-quality food all over the world”.

But they warn that opening the floodgates could lead to products such as chlorinated chicken, hormone-injected beef, crops sprayed with large quantities of insecticides, and meat from animals pumped full of antibiotics being imported into the UK.

They said: “You have heard about chlorinated chicken right? It’s when chicken meat is washed in chlorine to get rid of bacteria from dirty farms and abattoirs.

“It is currently illegal in the UK.

“That’s what could be coming if the Government opens up the floodgates to low-quality food imports in our trade deals with the rest of the world.

“And chlorine chicken is really just the tip of the iceberg.

“If Boris doesn’t do the right thing here’s what else could be coming – milk from cows injected with hormones to make them produce more, beef from cows pumped with artificial growth hormones that are currently banned in the UK.”

Childhood Obesity: A Plan For Action
Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have targeted MPs before about the issue of child obesity (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“If this Government truly cares about turning the tide on child obesity, Boris needs to step up to protect the food standards we’re so rightfully proud of.

“We owe it to our future generations to act now and prevent a race to the bottom when it comes to trade.”

The group includes TV chefs Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as well as Wicks – who shot to fame during the lockdown thanks to his online PE lessons – and a range of chefs, celebrities and campaigners.

Other organisations which are supporting this campaign include WWF, Which?, National Farmers Union, Bite Back 2030, The Wildlife Trusts, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Food Foundation, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), and The British Dietetic Association.

They warn that trade deals could lead to foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt being imported into the UK, putting more children at risk of obesity.

In the video, posted on Twitter on Sunday, they say they want Britain to be selling high quality food across the globe.

They said: “Our vision is a brand Britain selling high quality food all over the world.

“And if farmers from other countries make the same quality produce at a cheaper price then fair play to them.

“When it comes to food standards let’s have a race to the top not a race to the bottom.”

The group is urging people to write to their MPs urging them to save “our world-leading British standards” and protect children’s’ health in any future trade deals when the Agriculture and Trade bill returns to Parliament.

It comes after the Government was heavily defeated in the Lords over a cross-party move to guarantee high food standards post-Brexit.

Peers backed, by a majority of 95, a change to the Agriculture Bill requiring food products imported under future trade deals to meet or exceed domestic standards to prevent UK farmers being undermined.

It was the second defeat for ministers in Tuesday’s report stage debate on the legislation, as the Lords earlier backed a move demanding a ban on the use of pesticides near homes and public buildings or spaces, such as schools and hospitals.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said previously that the UK will not allow US chlorine-washed chicken to be stocked in supermarkets as a ban is already written into law.

The UK’s negotiating objectives for a free trade agreement with the United States, published in March, committed negotiators to “ensure high standards” and protections were maintained for consumers and workers, while “not compromising” on environmental, animal welfare and food standards.

The Department for International Trade said the Government was not planning to negotiate trade deals that harm farmers and consumers.

It tweeted: “Suggesting otherwise is entirely misleading.

“Our aim is to see more UK farmers exporting so that more countries can experience our world-class products.”

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