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Consumers at risk from "chemical chicken" imports

News Section Icon Published 05/06/2008

The Food Standards Agency must stop imports from US chickens now that three cases of an MRSA strain previously only found in farm animals have been identified in humans.

Compassion in World Farming has joined six other organisations including Sustain and the Soil Association to urge the Government to support EU member states in not allowing US imports of chicken that have been decontaminated with an antimicrobial wash.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture has long been linked to the increasingly serious problem of antibiotic resistance in humans, with many hospitals already using last resort antibiotics to treat some illnesses.

The EU banned antimicrobial washes for poultry meat in 1997, effectively prohibiting imports of such treated products. The practice is widely used in the US chicken industry, so the ban is the subject of a trade dispute. Recent negotiations have reopened the possibility of lifting the ban but, despite the risks, the UK abstained in a recent meeting of experts, leaving it isolated among the other 26 Member States who voted to keep the ban.

As well as these risks to human health and animal welfare, consumers are not likely to welcome the idea of eating chicken disinfected with chemicals. Using these chemicals is likely to take pressure off some producers to tackle the causes of bacterial contamination at source. Allowing decontamination with antimicrobials will probably hide problems on-farm which have animal welfare implications.

The Food Standards Agency should stand firm and protect the public, not just cave in to pressure from the US to promote substandard chicken.


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