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Implications of trade deals for farming and environmental standards in the UK

March 2019: Liberalised food production and farming standards could form a key element for future trade UK-US trade relationships. A deregulated post-Brexit food market could offer consumers food at lower prices but could also negatively affect public health outcomes in the UK.

Information

A publication outlining objectives for a trade deal between the US and the UK addresses US demands to seek greater access to the post-Brexit UK food market. The American Farming Association underlined that a future trade deal should include agricultural products such as chlorine washed chicken, hormone-fed beef and genetically modified crops. However, the UK government has raised concerns about antibiotics used for livestock rearing, bee-harming pesticides, neonicotinoids used on grains and an overall impact of food safety standards. European law does not allow the use of chemical treatments to reduce salmonella pathogens in poultry to encourage higher farming and abattoir standards.

Implications & Opportunities

A change in food production and import standards could have implication for an open border with Ireland due to fears within the EU of banned goods entering the food chain through cross-border meat and dairy production. Simultaneously, changes could disincentives high hygiene standards for farms and abattoirs. Current law aims to deliver better public health outcomes by incentivising high farming and production standards. Nonetheless, liberalising food trade between the US and the UK could offer British consumers food at lower prices and form a key element in future trade relations between the UK and the US.

Limitations

European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) and US regulators agree that chlorine treatments are unlikely to pose acute or immediate health risks for consumers and the EU currently allows chlorine treatments for vegetables such as bagged salad to reduce salmonella pathogens. However, the WHO raised concerns about chlorine’s effectiveness in killing bacteria and underlined that EU and US regulators use different measuring units to evaluate salmonella contamination, making a safety comparison between British and US poultry challenging.


Sources

The Guardian. (2019). Concern over food safety as US seeks greater access to UK markets. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/01/us-seeks-greater-access-to-uk-food-markets-after-brexit-trade-deal

Office of the United States Trade Representative. (2019). United States – United Kingdom Negotiations: Summary of Specific Negotiating Objectives. Washington: Executive Office of the President.

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