Chlorine-rinsed chicken ruffles feathers ahead of trade talks

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Wiktory
©iStock/Wiktory
The British Poultry Council has urged the Government to show confidence in on-farm food safety standards ahead of trade talks between the US and the UK.

One of the stumbling blocks could be chlorine-rinsed chicken – a practice adopted in the US but banned in Europe.

The BPC, which has more than 70 UK poultry firms covering primary breeding, agriculture and processing as members, rejected any plan to accept imports of chlorine-washed chickens as part of trade negotiations.

Post-Brexit trade talks

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the BPC, said it was a matter of reputation on the global stage.

“The UK poultry meat industry stands committed to feeding the nation with nutritious food and any compromise on standards will not be tolerated. A secure post-Brexit deal must be about Britain’s future food security and safety.”

BPC added it is a time when Government’s support towards British farmers and food production is needed most.

The US is Britain’s largest export market, buying more than £200bn of UK goods and services every year, according to Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary.

Donald Schaffner, extension specialist in food science at Rutgers University and IFT member, told us chlorine is used to control microbiological contamination.

“After the birds are slaughtered, they are washed, and chlorine is used in the wash water. I know that the rules are different in Europe, and chlorine is banned for this application because of the concern about formation of chlorine break down by products,” ​he said.

“There are alternatives to chlorine, but they tend to be more expensive. As chlorine is allowed for use in the US, this is what the industry here tends to use.”

Removing ban would speed up deal

A paper from the Adam Smith Institute said removing the ban on chlorinated chicken would allow a speedy trade deal.

Putting poultry meat in chlorine dioxide solution of the strength used in the US reduces prevalence of Salmonella from 14% in controls to 2%, according to the paper.

It also claims treated American chicken is more than a fifth cheaper than British meat and would cut UK prices by 21%.

Peter Spence, author of the report​, said trade critics like to suggest that such a deal will lead to unsafe produce.

“In reality, chlorinated chicken is so harmless that even the EU's own scientific advisors have declared that it is 'of no safety concern'. European opposition to US agricultural exports has held up trade talks for years,” ​he said.

"By scrapping the ban on chlorinated chicken imports, the Government will send a signal to potential trading partners across the globe that the UK remains an open-facing and free trading nation.”

BEUC said chemical washes aim to make up for inadequate hygiene on farms and abattoirs.

Instead of preventing chickens getting infected with pathogens during rearing and slaughter, the poultry industry has used chemicals to eliminate bacteria at the end of the meat production chain, added the European Consumer Organisation.

The EU has a ‘farm to fork’ approach which requires steps along the production chain to ensure food sold to consumers is safe.

BEUC raised concerns​ that chemical treatments might be seen as the ‘easy fix’ to clean up dirty meat during the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

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2 comments

Bureaucratic Stupidity

Posted by Stephen Brand,

The best run plant cannot guarantee that there will be no contamination of edible surfaces with Salmonella during slaughter
The best run farms cannot guarantee that there will be none of the flock with salmonella in the gut.
The post slaughter rinse with chlorine is a just a way of making the product safer for the customer.
We have been doing it in Australia for many years without any issues related to chlorinated by-products. The risk of Salmonella contamination is much greater than risk of by products from chlorine.
Blind Freddy can do the risk assessment

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Trade or Health or Self-Discrimination or WTO?

Posted by Christian Häberli,

If (i) German vets say chlorinated chickens are better than the EU standards, if (ii) UK scientists suggest maintaining the EU standard post-Brexit, and if (iii) the future UK-US FTA allows for chlorine chicken imports, will the UK Gvt risk losing UK produce market shares by maintaining EU standards for UK chicken OR will UK chicken exports to EU be banned? Or shall we wait for a WTO "science-based" ruling allowing chlorine everywhere?

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