Boris Johnson has U-turned on letting chlorinated chicken into the UK and people are absolutely livid

Joanna Taylor
Friday 05 June 2020 12:00
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( Dan Kitwood / SAEED KHAN / Getty Images )

Boris Johnson has reportedly dropped his onetime pledge that the UK won't accept chlorinated chicken while trading with the US and people are not happy.

Johnson's spokesperson refused to deny a Telegraph report that he was giving in to Trump's demand that the UK accept food produced to the US's lower welfare standards. The prime minister would also not repeat the pledge to journalists.

Because the UK is leaving the EU, it will no longer be subject to bans on potentially harmful food processes, like washing chicken in chlorine and selling hormone-fed beef.

But the EU and, it turns out, a lot of other people wanted the UK to retain these rules post-Brexit, even when trading with countries like the US where chlorinated chicken is commonplace.

In 2017, then-environment secretary Michael Gove said on the BBC's Today programme that the UK wouldn't accept chlorinated chicken.

We are not going to dilute our high animal welfare standards, or our high environmental standards, in pursuit of any trade deal.

His successor Theresa Villiers reiterated the pledge in January 2020, saying:

We will not be importing chlorinated-chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef.

But after US government officials made it clear that accepting their food standards was crucial to securing a trade deal, the government began to U-turn.

People are furious that the government has backed down on their promise. Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted that Michael Gove's statement on chlorinated chicken "hasn't aged well".

Food critic Jay Rayner shared a thread about the problem with chlorinated chicken, warning that it could result in infections spreading throughout larger farms that chlorine is unlikely to kill.

Others who criticised the government's u-turn included George Monbiot and novelist Andrew Scott.

Chlorinated chicken is a symbolic issue in numerous ways: for food quality and safety, farming and animal rights.

But the government are determined to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, even if it means directly contradicting this crucial promise.

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