Defra Secretary George Eustice has been urged to stand firm against imports of chlorine-washed chicken from the US – with a warning that he would be betraying the British poultry sector if he didn’t.
Bridgwater and West Somerset Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said Mr Eustice should put the future of the British farming industry – whose interests he was supposed to represent – before all other considerations. Mr Eustice has refused to guarantee a ban on chlorine-washed chicken the US might insist on Britain accepting as part of any trade deal – along with beef produced with the aid of hormones currently banned in the EU and the UK. But Mr Liddell-Grainger said the Defra Secretary would immediately cast himself as the arch-enemy of British farming if he gave in. “And personally that is not a role I would happy to play,” he said. “Our poultry industry has led the way in investing to improve standards not merely of welfare but of health and hygiene in the last few decades. “That has involved expensive measures to deal with disease problems at source, and as a result the British public is now supplied with some of the safest and most wholesome poultry and poultry products available anywhere in the world. “That entire situation would be fatally undermined if we allowed in cut-price and vastly inferior imports from a country which prefers to rely on a cheap solution to treat the symptoms of disease rather than the cause.“ And it doesn’t take a genius to work out what the impact of yet more cheap imports would be on our own poultry farmers. It would be catastrophic.”
Mr Liddell-Grainger said supporters of British farming were ready to launch an all-out campaign against chlorine -washed chicken and would insist on supermarkets clearly labelling it so consumers could be alerted. “My feeling is that the vast body of consumers will not want to see any dilution of the high standards that are now applied to all home-produced meat. But the danger then is that if chlorine-washed chicken becomes a tainted brand it will simply be diverted into the processing sector and slipped into pies and ready meals so we end up eating it anyway. “I am afraid Mr Eustice has to make up his mind pretty quickly whether he wants to remain the man who represents the farming sector in Government circles or whether he is going to be remembered as the minister who cravenly put dozens of poultry farms out of business and thousands of people out of work