NFU20: British farm standards must not be undermined

Farm leader Minette Batters has repeated her assertion that British food standards must not be undermined by a flood of imports post-Brexit.

Speaking at the NFU’s 2020 conference in Birmingham, Mrs Batters said it was vital that British standards were the benchmark for any food imports in future trade deals.

See also: Eustice refuses to rule out ban on chlorinated chicken

“For the first time in decades this country has the opportunity to shape a trade, immigration and agricultural policy which will define our country for decades to come,” she said.

Calling on the government to show leadership, she added: “We must not allow those standards to be undermined by imports of goods which would be illegal for our farmers to produce here.”

UK high standards

Some other countries used chlorine or other chemicals to wash carcasses – but this was not allowed in Britain because of UK legislation which limited stocking density.

“We have rules on biosecurity, lighting, diet and veterinary oversight,” said Mrs Batters.

“In the US and other countries there are no federal controls on what are deemed in the UK to be fundamental [animal] welfare requirements,” she added.

“This isn’t just about chlorinated chicken. This is about a wider principle.

“We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder while waving through food imports which may not even reach the bottom rung.

“If the government is serious about animal welfare and environmental protection and doing more than any previous government, it must put legislation in the Agriculture Bill.

“What is government waiting for? What is more important to our economy, our health and our environment than the very food that we eat?”

Eustice non-commital

Mrs Batters made the comments days after Defra secretary George Eustice failed to explicitly rule out the possibility of importing chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef.

“We’ve got a clear position in this country that it is [currently] illegal to sell chlorine-washed chicken, illegal to sell beef treated with hormones.

“We’ve no plans to change those things,” he told the Sophie Ridge programme on Sky News on Sunday (23 February).

Mr Eustice then told the BBC that lactic washes were more the norm and suggested there was “room for a sensible discussion” on this as part of future trade talks.