According to a survey of more than 2,000 members of the general public carried out by Which?, British consumers are ‘overwhelmingly against’ imports of food produced to lower standards like chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef, with many specifically concerned these foods could be served in schools and hospitals.
The vast majority (95%) of those surveyed said it is important for the UK to maintain existing food standards – which ban chlorine-washed chicken, meat from animals treated with growth hormones or antibiotics and many pesticides commonly used in US food production.
86% per cent were concerned that previously banned foods would be served in school, hospitals and restaurants where, pupils, patients and customers may have little information or choice about the food they eat.
Around three-quarters (74%) said they were opposed to importing food produced using these methods – a response that was consistent across all socio-economic groups. Only one in 10 (11%) from less affluent households said food from countries with lower standards should be allowed in the UK, in comparison with one in six (16%) from more affluent households.
Around eight in 10 people said they would be uncomfortable eating beef produced using growth hormones (80%) or meat from healthy farm animals given antibiotics to boost their growth (77%), while seven in 10 (73%) would be uncomfortable eating chlorine-washed chicken. Public opposition to these foods has been consistently at these levels since Which? first asked consumers for their views more than two years ago.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?, said: “People in Britain – whether rich or poor – are absolutely united in their opposition to lowering food standards and allowing imports of products like chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef into our supermarkets, schools and hospitals.
“Food standards in the UK must not be compromised by any trade deal that would betray decades of progress on food safety, quality and animal welfare.
“The government must legislate to protect food standards in the Trade Bill or Agriculture Bill to reassure consumers and send a positive message that Britain wants to strike ambitious trade deals that enhance food standards worldwide.”