In a newspaper article over the weekend, the US Ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, has claimed that the EU’s ‘Museum of Agriculture’ approach was not sustainable. He also stated that American farmers are ‘the future of farming.’
Published in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said that fears over chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef are ‘myths’. The Ambassador urged the UK to embrace US farming methods. His remarks followed the US Governments’ published objectives, that were released on Friday for a UK-US trade deal.
Donald Trump’s administration has outlined its demands for a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain, insisting on ‘comprehensive market access’ for US agricultural products and the elimination of ‘unwanted barriers’ to food imports.
Responding on Twitter, Deputy Chairman of the NFU Stuart Roberts said: “The British public benefit from the third most affordable food in the world, produced to some of the highest environmental standards on the planet, and enjoy some of the most stunning landscapes. Not by my definition a museum.”
EU rules currently limit US exports of certain food products, including chicken and beef – but the Ambassador wants that to change in the UK after Brexit. However the Defra Minister Michael Gove has repeatedly denied that the UK Government will accept lower food standards.
In his article, Mr Johnson described warnings over US farming practices as smears from “people with their own protectionist agenda”. He said that…..…”scare-stories only tell you half the story.” On chlorine-washed chicken, Mr Johnson said the process was the same as that used by EU farmers to treat their fruit and vegetables.
Mr Johnson also said that: “This week the United States published our objectives for a future trade deal with the UK. We are now ready to negotiate the most ambitious and comprehensive trade deal in the history of our special relationship. And of course we want agriculture to be part of those negotiations – it is a great opportunity for both of us.
“But the British public has been led to believe otherwise. You have been presented with a false choice: either stick to EU directives, or find yourselves flooded with American food of the lowest quality. Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘ chlorinated chicken and hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light.”
Describing it as a “public safety no-brainer”, he also claimed in his article that it was the most effective and economical way of dealing with potentially lethal bacteria such as campylobacter and salmonella. In the US, it is legal to wash chicken carcasses in strongly chlorinated water.
US producers argue that it stops the spread of microbial contamination from the bird’s digestive tract to the meat, a method approved by US regulators.
However, the practice has been banned in the EU since 1997, where only washing with cold air or water is allowed.
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, President of the NFU Minette Batters said that while Mr Johnson was correct in saying chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef was safe to eat, there were other factors that needed considering. “The difference is welfare standards and environmental protection standards. Our consumer has demanded high standards of animal welfare and we’ve risen to that challenge.”