Chlorinated turkey could be on the menu at Christmas if UK does deal with US

Prime Minister Theresa May holds talks with US President Donald Trump. Picture: Stefan Rousseau.

Prime Minister Theresa May holds talks with US President Donald Trump. Picture: Stefan Rousseau.

PA Wire/PA Images

Chlorinated turkey, chicken and other poultry washed in chemicals could end up on the menu at Christmas if the UK does a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, food policy experts have warned.

A briefing paper prepared by three professors said British shoppers would be safer if the UK kept European Union standards on food production and called for future controls to be “stricter, not weaker”.

The report, released on Monday, comes after Donald Trump’s commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said during a visit to the UK last month that compliance with EU food standards on GM crops and chlorine-washed chicken could pose problems in negotiations between the US and UK following Brexit.

Mr Ross claimed the EU restrictions were “really not science-based”.

The report said gaps in available scientific knowledge were so great that the use of the chemicals in the US was not “on the basis of sound science” - and accused Mr Ross of indulging in “wishful thinking”.

Prof Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex said: “The UK should continue to insist on improving hygiene standards in poultry farms, slaughter houses and meat-cutting plants and not allow standards to decline, nor try relying on chemical disinfectants to reduce the harm that filthy meat can cause.

“UK consumers would be safer to keep EU standards and not to accept US disinfectant-washed-but-still-dirty poultry.”

The team compared current UK and EU standards with those in the US, where poultry is washed in up to four chemical disinfectants called pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs) and statistics show 97% of chicken breast meat contains pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli.

They found the chemicals were also used there to wash fruit, vegetables and fish which Prof Lang said “shocked” them. The paper also warned the use of chemical disinfectants by the US food industry posed risks to consumers and workers in the industry.

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