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Cheap imports with a high cost

News Section Icon Published 22/06/2020

Alongside 25 other leading civil society organisations and academics, we are urging the UK’s major food retailers not to sell food imported under a trade agreement with the USA.

In a letter sent to the CEOs of nine major supermarkets, we warn that a trade deal with the USA could open the floodgates for the import of foods – particularly meat, egg and dairy products – produced to standards lower than those of the UK.

Lower standards across the board

Shockingly, areas where the USA has lower standards than the UK include: food safety, animal welfare, antibiotics stewardship and environmental standards.

Concerns raised in the letter include:

  • The import of hormone-treated beef, raised in US cattle feedlots to low animal welfare and environmental standards, which would undercut UK pasture-based beef farmers on price.
  • The use of ractopamine, to promote growth in pigs, which is permitted in the USA but prohibited in the UK due to human health concerns. Pork imported from the US is also likely to come from herds where sows are confined in narrow stalls during pregnancy – a practice which has been illegal in the UK since 1999.
  • The import of chicken washed in chlorine, used to mask dirty conditions in production, slaughter and processing which are banned in the UK because they support intensive methods of farming with lower hygiene and welfare standards.
  • High levels of farm antibiotic use in the US compared with the UK, raising serious concerns about fuelling dangerous anti-microbial resistance.

Undermining our food standards and our farmers

“These ‘cheap’ US imports may seem like a good deal, but they come at a high cost – to animal welfare, human health and the environment,” says Peter Stevenson, our Chief Policy Advisor. “There is a real danger that these imports would undermine the livelihoods of UK farmers and lower the quality of some foods available to UK consumers.”

“We encourage retailers to commit to retaining current food standards here in the UK as a minimum and not to sell low quality food imported under trade deals.”

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