The facts about chlorinated chicken and other threats to our food standards
As if Covid-19, systemic racism, police brutality and Brexit weren’t enough to be getting on with, I’d like to take five minutes of your time to talk about some other shit going on at the moment – the proposed trade deals between Boris Johnson and the US, which threaten our food standards. After all, this is a food blog.
You might have heard murmurings about ‘chlorinated chicken’ and the deals that Boris Johnson wants to make with Donald Trump, but what does it all actually mean for our food standards? And what can we do to (attempt to) stop it?
The summary: Since cutting ties with the EU, Boris is desperate to make deals with the US instead, which would allow various US-produced foods into the country.
The issue: America’s food standards are much lower than ours. (No offence America, I know there are a lot of you who care about food standards and animal welfare but I’m afraid it’s true – the US government permits some pretty shady animal practices which we have so far managed to resist in the UK).
Three (grim) foods we could be eating if the deals go ahead
1. Chlorinated chicken
This refers to chickens being rinsed with antimicrobial chlorine wash after they’ve been slaughtered, to protect consumers from food-borne disease. It’s a practice that’s currently banned in the UK but common in the US poultry industry. The Soil Association explains it well here:
‘This is done to treat high levels of bacteria, a symptom of poor hygiene and low animal welfare conditions not allowed in UK farming.
UK producers use a “farm to fork” approach. This approach requires sanitary practices to be used all along the production chain to ensure that food sold to consumers is safe. The higher hygiene and animal welfare standards used when following this approach help combat the spread of bacteria, meaning chlorine washes are not necessary.’
In other words, we look after our chickens here, and keep them hygienically, meaning there’s no need to wash them with harsh chemicals just so they’re safe to eat. Chlorine-washing is essentially a way to be able to keep chickens in really bad conditions so that meat is really cheap.
2. GM foods
The rules surrounding the use of genetically modified foods are strict in the EU. In contrast, the majority of processed foods in the US contain GM ingredients and they (the big dogs in America) often talk about wanting more of a ‘science-based’ approach to food – also known as using more chemicals and more genetic modification. No thank you.
3. Antibiotic meat
A shocking proportion of America’s meat is mass-produced in factory farms. In fact, according to this source, ‘using data from the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, it is estimated that 70.4% of cows, 98.3% of pigs, 99.8% of turkeys, 98.2% of chickens raised for eggs, and over 99.9% of chickens raised for meat are raised in factory farms’
In these factory farms, the animals are raised in poor conditions and pumped full of antibiotics, hormones and steroids – not just to encourage them to grow bigger and faster, but to help combat the illnesses caused by keeping them in such squalid conditions in the first place! So. Stupid.
I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want to condone this kind of treatment of animals, nor do I want to eat chemical-pumped meat.
What can we do?
There are loads of petitions out there to be signed! I’s the least we can do and it takes about 5 seconds. Here are four of the main petitions – click, sign and spread the word!
You can also write to your local MP about it. Find out who yours is, find their email address and get sending.
To read more on the subject, check out these articles: