MINISTERS have hit back at claims they plan to water down food standards in new trade deals, in particular regarding the ongoing negotiations with the US.
Defra secretary George Eustice and Trade secretary Elizabeth Truss co-signed a letter saying the government was committed to upholding high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards.
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The document, which was sent to all MPs, explicitly said treating poultrymeat with anything other than potable water would remain banned and changes would require new legislation to be brought before parliament.
“This UK Government will not compromise on our standards,” it said. “Our manifesto is clear that in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
The letter adds that the Food Standards Agency, and Food Standards Scotland, are independent agencies that oversee food standards for both domestic production and imports.
“All parts of the UK should be proud of our world-leading food, health and animal welfare standards and we will not lower our standards as we negotiate new trade deals.”
It comes amid reports that the government is considering tariffs that would effectively “price out” imports of foodstuffs produced to lower standards.
But it would still potentially be a blow to British farmers, as costs of production can be far lower in countries with more ready access to feed, or lower labour costs.
The NFU has a petition on its website calling on the government to maintain food standards that has, to date, been signed more than 800,000 times.
It told the Financial Times: “The NFU is quite clear that trade agreements shouldn’t allow the import of food that would be illegal to produce here, which would undercut British farmers and their high standards.
“We are asking the government to introduce a trade, food and farming standards commission that can review trade policy and develop solutions to promote free trade while holding all food imports to the UK’s high food standards.”