A new petition is urging other supermarkets to follow Waitrose’s lead in refusing to stock chlorinated chicken in the event of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
Recently Waitrose boss James Bailey refused to commit to any foods which do not meet the store’s high standards – including chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef.
He wrote in the store’s Weekend magazine: ‘[Many observers] believe that in an effort to win a trade deal for the UK, we could see the standards British farmers have worked so hard to reach and uphold, sacrificed’.
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‘In evidence, they point to a substantial number of examples where American standards fall well below our own: from lower-welfare chicken to hormone treated-beef and the extensive use of antibiotics.’
He added: ‘Whatever happens, let me give you our commitment. We promise we will never sell any Waitrose product that does not meet our own high standards.’
The comments have led to pressure on other major supermarket chains to act and provide similar commitments.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?, welcomed Waitrose’s position but said: ‘It should not be left to supermarkets to keep food produced to lower standards out of our food chain – the government should put its commitments into law via the Agriculture or Trade Bill to reassure consumers that food standards will not be compromised in any trade deal.’
A 38 Degrees online petition has been signed by a more than 110,000 people in a matter of days, showing strength of feeling about the matter.
It urges chains including Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsburys, the Co-Op, Asda, Aldi and Lidl to ‘commit to protecting the UK’s high food and animal welfare standards and thriving farming sector’ by refusing to stock the products in the event of a weakening of food standards in the UK.
In Westminster the Lib Dem leadership contender Layla Moran MP has been one of the leading voices in campaigning for supermarkets to take action where the government fails to act.
The Tories at the last election had promised to protect British farming and food standards, but have since rejected amendments to the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented such imports.
She said: ‘I am urging supermarkets to listen to these concerns, follow Waitrose’s courageous stance on this issue and confirm they will not sell products like chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef.
‘In the absence of a cast-iron legal protections to ensure UK standards are not lowered, it’s important that supermarkets reassure people that these foods that won’t be stocked on their shelves.’