Food and health standards after Brexit in danger

Keith Taylor MEP, a member of the European Parliament's Public Health committee and Vice Chair of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, has denounced Trade Secretary Liam Fox's plans to exploit 'anti-democratic Henry VIII powers' to scrap EU food and public health standards after Brexit.

Keith Taylor at European Parliament
Keith Taylor at European Parliament
Keith Taylor

Plans confirmed to Business Insider by government sources have revealed Trade Secretary Liam Fox will use the powers within the EU Withdrawal Agreement to change the law by Statutory Instrument, without scrutiny or a vote, to jettison EU safeguards in pursuit of an 'America first' trade deal with Donald Trump.

EU rules currently, among other things, prohibit the sale of chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected cattle. The Trade Secretary is linked to a shadowy network of transatlantic right-wing lobby groups that have long pushed for the UK and EU to open its markets to cheaper, lower quality US agricultural products, produced to lower welfare standards.

This comment from Keith Taylor first appeared on his blog.

These revelations are just a re-confirmation of animal welfare and toxic trade campaigners' worst fears, fears that were shouted down during the EU referendum as scaremongering.

The government is not only pushing Britain towards a disastrous 'no deal' Brexit but also a toxic bilateral, TTIP-like trade deal with Trump's America. For Liam Fox and the Brexit syndicate, leaving the EU is the perfect opportunity for a US-led chlorinated chicken coop d'etat and to hell with the public health, environment and animal welfare consequences.

Liam Fox wants to scrap EU principles to make it easier to hand over power to US corporations and 'Big Food' lobbyists

British farmers, public health, animal welfare and environmental safeguards are set to be sacrificed on the altar of a hugely unbalanced trade deal with a nation that has talked up its desire to exploit Britain's post-Brexit vulnerability.

For decades, the food on our plates and the welfare of the animals from which it derives has been protected – albeit sometimes inadequately – by our membership of the EU. This precautionary principle protects citizens from any process, procedure, or product that carries with it a plausible risk of harm. Liam Fox wants to scrap it to make it easier to hand over power to US corporations and 'Big Food' lobbyists.

Take, for example, pesticides; the deal would open the door to at least 82 pesticides currently permitted in the US but banned in the EU on health and environmental grounds. Among these are permethrin, a likely carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor, and atrazine, a herbicide thought to affect the immune system and linked to birth defects.

Equally worrying, in the US it’s perfectly legal to 'wash' butchered chicken in strongly chlorinated water and to spray pig carcasses with acid – which don't need to be labelled. These practices are banned in the EU and are thought to increase microbial contamination as dirty abattoirs with sloppy standards rely on the processes instead of ensuring their basic hygiene protocols are up to scratch.

For animal welfare, the deal would be a disaster; US livestock welfare standards are far lower than across the EU, where animals are legally recognised as 'sentient beings' and their welfare is regarded as such. It'd also be far from a great deal for human health; persistent concerns about the potential health risks of US-style hormone-fed, intensively farmed cattle, such as increased cancer and early puberty, ensure a general EU-wide ban remains in place – guided by the precautionary principle.

For animal welfare, the deal would be a disaster

Over-medicated livestock is both bad for animals and public health. In the US, intensively reared beef cattle and dairy cows are regularly implanted with synthetic growth hormones while pigs are often treated with 'bodybuilding' drugs. At the same time, against the backdrop of a global crisis of antibiotic-resistance, 75 per cent of medically important antibiotics in the US are given to farm animals. UK consumers would have no choice but to contribute to this public health crisis as many of the products in which US meats would end up do not have to label the country of origin of their ingredients."

Add to this the lack of US restrictions on the use of animal byproducts for livestock feed, linked with outbreaks of swine fever, foot and mouth and mad cow disease in humans, and the widespread use of unlabelled genetically modified foods and additives, linked to asthma, and kidney, nervous system and gastrointestinal disorders, and we have a snapshot of a deeply damaging trade deal.

Ultimately, though, Liam Fox's plans serve as a powerful argument for a People's Vote on the terms of any final Brexit deal. Nobody voted for chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef, nor was it slapped on the side of a big red bus during the campaign.

As Greens, we will continue to fight for a People's Vote and against a race to the bottom on environmental, consumer, food safety and animal welfare standards.