Hormone-pumped US beef would pose an ‘unnecessary and unacceptable risk to public health’ if it is allowed to be sold in the UK post-Brexit.
That is the stark warning from the Food Research Collaboration which also said food safety standards should not be used as a ‘bargaining chip’ as Britain seeks to strike new trade deals.
In Hormone-Treated Beef: Should Britain accept it after Brexit? Professors Erik Millstone and Tim Lang also called on farmers, supermarkets and butchers to make ‘explicit commitments to consumers never to produce or sell hormone-treated beef’.
The report warns that unlabelled hormone-boosted meat could enter the food chain while still illegal in the EU, risking a boycott of British exports.
Countries including the US and Canada allow the use of hormones to boost muscle growth in cattle, but the meat from these animals is banned in the EU.
Dr Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London, said: ‘The UK government should ensure either that food standards remain fully aligned with EU standards, or that we adopt higher standards.
‘There is a triple risk here: to health, to British beef farmers’ livelihoods, and to the UK’s ability to determine its own food safety standards.
‘Hormone use is a test case for whether the UK seeks a more sustainable food supply.
‘Hormone use would be a stupid step towards intensive beef feeding lots.’
Fears over food standards post-Brexit have already been voiced as the government seeks trade deals with countries around the world.
In June Compassion in World Farming said the UK will come under intense pressure to accept lower standards once its food production industry is removed from EU structures which currently guarantee high welfare for animals.
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has already made clear the UK will have to adopt American standards in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal, the charity said.
It is also one of the many sticking points involving the Irish border, with British acceptance of the hormone-infused cattle seen as incompatible with a soft line between the Republic and Northern Ireland.