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After Brexit – chlorinated chicken and Canadian Scotch?

  1. Glass of whisky with ice
    Ray Newman

    Ray Newman UKBF Regular Staff Member

    138 20
    6 |

    If you’ve been following our national soap opera, The Brexit Saga, you might have noticed references to ‘chlorinated chicken’, not least when Prime Minister Boris Johnson directed it as an insult at the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, in the House of Commons last week.

    But what is chlorinated chicken? And how has it become so loaded with political meaning?

    In simple terms, it refers to a standard treatment for chicken products in the US which sees them washed with what amounts to a weak bleach solution to kill bacteria before packaging.

    Sure, it sounds pretty unappetising – poulet à la sauce de piscine, anyone? – but the European Union’s own food scientists have acknowledged on record that “treatment with… chlorine dioxide.... under  the described conditions of use, would be of no safety concern”.

    So why is this practice banned in the EU? The argument is that simply rinsing off bacteria at the final stage discourages best practice earlier in the process – during farming, transport and processing.

    The US Government, offended by the continued suggestion that the product of its farming industry is unsafe or at least unsavoury, but also sensing an opportunity, has ramped up pro-chlorine propaganda in recent months, as reported by Mark Di Stefano for Buzzfeed.

    What they’re hoping is that when, or if, Britain is no longer bound by EU food regulations, a new UK-US trade deal will permit the import of chlorine-washed chicken products to the UK.

    And this is why it’s become a political hot potato: for some, it symbolises all that is wrong with the Brexit project, with Britain forced to lower its standards and bend to the will of a different global superpower.

    Other practices currently permitted in the US but banned in the EU include adding potassium bromate to bread products, which the EU considers a cancer risk, and the use of the animal feed additive Ractopamine.

    Is all the bother worth it if we end up having to accept a multitude of such compromises?

    Not just chicken

    Though chicken has the headline grabbing yuck factor, it’s far from being the only controversial product that EU regulations currently keep off the UK market.

    The EU currently oversees a system of ‘geographic indicators’ (GI) for certain specific foodstuffs and drinks, providing quality marks guaranteeing, for example, that anything labelled as Parmesan cheese really is from the Parma region of Italy.

    As a power bloc, the EU has been able to strike trade deals with the US agreeing that American producers won’t produce ‘Scotch whisky’ and, in turn, European distillers will keep their paws off ‘Bourbon’ and ‘Tennessee whisky’.

    In the UK, origin certification currently applies to 88 different products including Stilton, Melton Mowbray pork pies, West Country cheddar and the Cornish pasty.

    Depending on the terms under which we leave the EU, or if there’s no deal in place at all, all those protected British products could be up for grabs.

    The Government has said that it expects “existing UK GIs will continue to be protected by the EU’s GI schemes after we leave the EU” but if the US insists on the right to use the ‘Scotch whisky’ description on bottles as part of a trade deal will our negotiators be in a position to resist?

    This might seem trivial – that is, if you’re not Scottish – but ‘Scotch’ commands a premium, rightly or wrongly, and a flood of American, Canadian or Japanese ‘Scotch’ on the global market would present a challenge to British businesses.

    Opportunity or threat?

    For some, and not only American trade negotiators, there might be opportunities in the upheaval.

    If any new trade deal with China requires us to sign up to lower safety standards for certain industrial products, for example, that could be good news for dropshippers and e-sellers.

    Unfortunately, the most likely outcome, even in the event of ‘no deal’, is that UK manufacturers eventually end up being obliged to conform to EU standards if they want to continue trading there, while also accepting cheaper, less stringently regulated imports from the US, China and elsewhere.

    With that in mind, let’s hope any future trade negotiations go as well as the Brexit believers seem sure they will.

  2. gpietersz

    gpietersz UKBF Enthusiast Full Member

    882 193
    We do not know what the terms of trade deals will be. The fears as based on what the other side in each case is expected to ask for (e.g. chorinated chicken) but of course both sides have to agree any deal.

    EU GIs go far too far. Terms like "méthode champenoise" are useful descriptions to consumers. So is Cornish Pasty as opposed to "traditional pasty" as anyone outside Cornwall is forced to call it. Consumers will be better informed without over the top GIs, so the market will function better.
    Posted: Sep 11, 2019 By: gpietersz Member since: Sep 10, 2019
  3. Clodbuster

    Clodbuster UKBF Enthusiast Full Member

    831 140
    Your salads that are so good for you are washed in diluted chlorine. A load of protectionist tripe.
    Posted: Sep 13, 2019 By: Clodbuster Member since: Apr 24, 2008
    Pembroke99 likes this.
  4. klicnow

    klicnow UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    5 1
    Of course we do have another option... don't buy it if we don't like it
    Posted: Sep 13, 2019 By: klicnow Member since: Feb 29, 2012
  5. Mr D

    Mr D UKBF Legend Free Member

    22,044 2,592
    Consumers already have choice when buying. Does any vegan buy a steak for themselves? No. Their choice not to buy.
    Does anyone check whether the fresh or frozen produce they buy has been treated with appropriate stuff to get rid of bacteria? Probably not.
    Or whether the food they eat when dining out meets standards for production the person prefers?

    People are reacting like everyone is going to be forced to eat or drink what overseas exporters insist you must. Reality is people make their own choices.
    Anyone been to the US and refused to eat chicken due to chlorination? Did you examine the supply chain for other foods too?
    Posted: Sep 14, 2019 By: Mr D Member since: Feb 12, 2017
  6. mekondelta

    mekondelta UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    17 1
    I think its a question of opening the floodgates. If you want to retain regulatory alignment with the EU - our biggest market - then you won't be able to make jars of Chicken Curry for the EU market with the chicken you might have got from the US. Its not a question of whether chlorinated mung beans are good for you or not although it might be a slippery slope. This is often overlooked in the whole fiasco and its worth looking at EU no deal preperation documents. 'If you buy components from the UK for your product then you will not be able to say that your product is made in the EU'. That is quite significant if someone relies on that stamp to sell a product.
    Posted: Sep 16, 2019 By: mekondelta Member since: Sep 3, 2019
  7. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

    9,792 3,958
    There is a question in philosophy that asks "If a number of men discuss a subject they know nothing about, do they collectively know more or less than one man who does not know what he is talking about?"

    This thread seems to answer that ancient question.
    Posted: Sep 16, 2019 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
    simon field likes this.