- The EU has banned the import of chicken disinfected with chemical rinses for two decades.
- Liberalising US poultry imports is expected to be a key feature of US-UK trade talks.
- Americans safely eat upwards of 156 million such chickens each week.
- Adults would need to eat 5% of their bodyweight in chlorinated chicken each day to be at risk of ill health from poultry alone.
- US methods produce fresh chicken at 79% of the price of equivalent birds on British supermarket shelves.
- British trade negotiators should be authorised to permit the import of chemically disinfected poultry from the US in return for a rapid free trade agreement.
Today in Washington teams from the UK and the United States will begin talks that both sides hope will end up in a trade deal between the two countries after Britain leaves the European Union.
Trade deals require pragmatism, they require compromise and they require the parties involved to look at their own regulatory frameworks and see if there are areas they can improve. With the UK leaving the European Union it can look again at restrictions on imports that the EU has imposed. Importantly these can be done through an evidence-based-policy lens.
Chlorinated Chicken is one of the areas that the UK can look at again as we enter talks. It is a safe treatment mechanism for meat practiced regularly in the US poultry sector. Importantly it is banned for import into the EU despite the European Food Safety Authority saying four types of chemical rinse, including chlorine dioxide, ‘would be of no safety concern’.
In fact a person would have to eat around 5 per cent of their body weight in chicken every day (nearly three whole birds a day for the typical British man) to reach the safety limit, according to European Commission data. Drinking water poses a far greater risk, making up 99 per cent of the disinfection byproducts consumed in a typical daily diet.
It does, however come with significant benefit. Immersing poultry meat in chlorine dioxide solution of the strength used in the United States reduces prevalence of salmonella from 14% in controls to 2%. EU chicken samples typically have 15-20% salmonella.
But why is this important? Because it's been a stumbling block on US-EU trade talks to date, with the USA likely to make increased access for American poultry exports to the UK market.
The UK can show it is serious about being open for business by striking a deal with the largest economy in the world and can simultaneously show it bases regulation on scientific evidence. That sounds like a win-win.
Read the whole piece here.