Chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef will never be sold at any Waitrose supermarkets in the event of a trade deal with the US, its new chief executive has pledged.
Writing in the latest Waitrose Weekend magazine on Thursday (25 June), James Bailey promised the retailer will not lower its standards to stock food imports that don’t meet the high standards of UK farmers.
“[Many observers] believe that in an effort to win a trade deal for the UK, we could see the standards British farmers have worked so hard to reach and uphold, sacrificed,” wrote Mr Bailey.
“In evidence, they point to a substantial number of examples where American standards fall well below our own: from lower-welfare chicken to hormone treated-beef and the extensive use of antibiotics.”
He added: “Whatever happens, let me give you our commitment. We promise we will never sell any Waitrose product that does not meet our own high standards.”
Waitrose agriculture manager Jake Pickering said on Twitter the company would be writing to all its farmer suppliers to inform them of the commitment.
Today we @waitrose will be writing to all of our customers and farmers, to say whatever future trade deals may hold, we remain committed to our farmers! We will never sell any products that do not meet our own high standards. That’s our promise to you, our farmers and the nation!
— Jake Pickering (@J_L_Pickering) June 25, 2020
More than one million people have signed an NFU petition urging the UK government to back British farmers and ensure future trade deals do not lead to an increase in food imports that would be illegal to produce here.
The petition has been backed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, farmer Jimmy Doherty and former Defra secretary Theresa Villiers.
Research by consumer group Which? has suggested 86% of consumers are worried about a weakening of standards. Nearly three-quarters (72%) said they did not want lower-standard products to be allowed on sale in the UK.
Despite the Conservative government’s manifesto commitment to protect British farming and food standards, in May MPs rejected an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented lower-standard food imports.
The UK government has insisted it will not undermine UK farmers in any trade deals, but it has failed to rule out importing chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef from the US.
Farmers Weekly will be contacting the heads of other leading UK supermarkets to see if they will be making similar commitments on food standards.