- This is a dangerous time for British food standards
- 5 health threats from American imports
- Why you’ve the right to know what you’re eating
It’s a dangerous time for Britain’s food standards.
With the end of EU regulation, the government faces stark choices about what we deem acceptable in our food supply.
I’m not about to wade into the Brexit debate here…
But I care about food.
I care about how far it travels… how much pesticide is on it… how nutritious it is… how seasonal it is… how the animals are reared.
And you should too.
Because these issues directly affect your health.
You have a right to know what’s in the food on the shop shelves so you can make an informed decision about what you buy.
So without getting into politics, I’ll just say that there are some protections we had under the EU that really need to continue in the future.
Because if we relax the rules on USA imports, then there are five health threats you need to know about:
- Chlorine-washed chicken
In the USA they use chlorinated disinfectants to kill bacteria on poultry. This is why US chicken has been banned since 1997.
It’s not necessarily the toxicity of the chlorine that’s the big issue, but the poor hygiene standards that this process covers up.
It’s far better for producers to use a wide array of strategies to reduce contamination than relying on dousing the meat in chemical wash.
Even if we allow this food to hit the supermarket shelves, there should be labelling so that we know what we are buying.
The decision should be ours to make!
- Battery hen feed
A second problem with chicken is that in the USA, they add something called “chicken litter” into their animal feed.
That’s basically faeces and bedding material, all mulched together to make cheap food.
It’s not good for animals and was this process that worsened the rate of mad cow disease infection in the last two outbreaks in the UK.
In the USA, they are much more liberal with the spraying of chemicals onto their crops. Not only do they do it more often, but the amount of residue allowed to be left on the food is much higher too.
EU laws ban the use of a drug called ractopamine, which boosts muscle and reduces fat in pigs, leading to a meatier product. At the moment, we don’t know what kind of effect this could have on humans, and it has by no means been deemed “safe”.
Yet in the USA it’s widely used and if that meat ends up on our shelves, we’ll be eating it, like it or not.
There are more additives, at higher strengths, in US products.
For example, potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide (ADA) have been linked to cancer but are still in US bread products; plus BHA and BHT, which are preservatives that scientists also think might be carcinogenic.
So those are the five threats…
Now, no matter how worried you might be about these problems, you must agree that we should at least have the right to know what we are buying.
That includes where in the world our food comes from, and what has been done to that food in the production process.
Seems fair, doesn’t it?
Well, this is what’s most dangerous about this post-Brexit transition period.
Taking away your right to KNOW
The government may choose to waiver their labelling obligations when it comes to these imports.
Which will leave you and me in the dark when it comes to our food choices.
And if you care about nutrition, disease prevention and long-term health, (which I assume all my readers do!) then we should care about this.
In fact, it was one of my readers who sent me details this week of a letter sent to the CEOs of the UK’s supermarkets.
The letter asked them to refuse foods produced from unregulated and unlabelled gene-edited crops and animals.
You see, GMOs are unlawful in the EU, but the government is having a consultation on plans to remove controls and consumer labelling from food created via gene editing.
The letter was signed by the likes of the Slow Food movement, the Soil Association, the Landworkers’ Alliance, Students for Sustainability, and Tim Lang Green, Professor Emeritus of Food Policy at City University.
Their hope is that by putting pressure on the supermarkets to take a stand, they can make proper labelling happen.
Because, again, it doesn’t really matter if you care that gene-editing created your food, or not…
The issue here is that you should know about it.
Labelling will give us a choice about what we buy – and in making those decisions, we can influence how food is made.
After all, if a company’s sales drop because they use chlorinated chicken or GMO ingredients, then that’s an incentive to change their ways.
However, if there’s no accurate labelling, we’ll never know what’s in the product, and our right to choose is taken awway from us.
It leaves food manufacturers with the power to cut costs and abandon good practices – because why should they make it harder and more expensive for themselves when it makes no difference?
Nobody will really know what’s in their food before they buy it, so anything goes!
With all this in mind let’s just hope that the government makes a decision on the basis of health, not money.