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‘Terrifying prospect’

Chlorinated chicken tip of the iceberg in US threat to UK food standards
Ryan Fletcher, Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

There are many vile and obnoxious sides to Donald Trump: his blatant dishonesty, racism, misogyny, wilful ignorance and utilisation of the politics of fear and division to name but a few.


All of this and more are why so many people have lined the streets of London today (4 June) to express their displeasure at the US president’s official state visit.


Trump’s global and headline grabbing disgraces naturally attract attention on the man himself and his place on the international stage, but the president’s alliances with those who would attack Britain’s workers rights and food and environmental standards should be not overlooked.


Yesterday, Trump said his administration is ready to sign a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK – a deal many Tory MPs, despite their private distaste for the president as an individual, are willing to hold their noses for and welcome.


A recent investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches into chlorinated chicken produced in America shows what people in Britain can expect if hardliners in the UK government get their way.


Chlorinated chicken is currently banned in the UK and EU but Trump’s trade negotiators are insisting it be allowed into British markets as part of any deal.


There are those in the UK government that are willing to accept the US’ chlorinated chickens and other controversial demands, with international trade secretary Liam Fox suggesting the continuation of the chlorination ban could be “impossible” under a WTO trade deal with the US.


In America it is normal for chicken to be washed in chlorine to kill off bacteria, allowing producers to follow much laxer hygiene regulations than those in the UK.


The practice is banned here because scientists say it disguises safety failings rather than adequately preventing contamination by deadly salmonella and campylobacter bacteria.


This is backed up by the fact that the rate of campylobacter poisoning in the US is ten times higher than in the UK, while deaths from salmonella in America are in the hundreds every year, compared to zero in the UK in recent years.


The Dispatches investigation went undercover into a major US poultry factory and discovered a litany of dangerously low standards and unsanitary conditions.


These included raw meat being handled by workers without gloves, chicken blocking drains, broken and flooded floors, leaking machinery, numerous cross-contamination risks and even an example of a worker who went back to handling chicken wearing the same gloves used to clear out a drain.


Shockingly, another worker had three fingers amputated in an accident while filming was taking place.


Commenting on the footage, assistant secretary general of the European Food and Meat Inspectors Association, Ron Spellman, said it showed the US has “much lower standards than we’ve got in Britain and in the EU”.


Unite member Charlie Clutterbuck, who has a sat on a number of expert agricultural panels and is the author of Bittersweet Brexit, said chlorinated chicken was just one example of what could be heading to Britain’s shores under a US trade deal.


He said, “It’s not just chlorinated chicken or beef injected with growth hormones, it is white blood cells in milk and cheap corn.


“The risk is that standards would be driven down (in Britain) by cheap imports and that it would be a free for all.”


Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the consequences of a US trade deal negotiated by the Tories wouldn’t just impact our food.


He said, “If they get their way we would see the NHS destroyed from the inside, our labour market become even more dominated by low paid insecure work, our food and environmental standards plummet and our economy re-purposed to even better serve the interests of the super rich. Quite frankly, it’s a terrifying prospect.”


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