100 signatures reached
To: CEOs of Aldi, Asda, Co-Op, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose
Retain food standards and labelling after Brexit
Make a public commitment that all the food you will sell after Brexit will meet standards as high or higher than current UK standards for animal welfare, environmental protection, food safety, hygiene and traceability.
Why is this important?
When the Agriculture Bill was debated in the House of Commons in May, MPs rejected an amendment aimed at allowing the importation of only those agricultural goods that meet standards as high or higher than current UK standards for animal welfare, environmental protection, food safety, hygiene and traceability. This is despite the assurance from Tory MPs who campaigned for Brexit that there would be no lowering of animal welfare or food safety standards after the UK left the EU. E.g. Michael Gove stated in July 2017: “We are not going to dilute our high animal welfare standards, or our high environmental standards, in pursuit of any trade deal.” (1)
MPs know that there are good reasons for public concern. Incidences of food poisoning in the US affect 14% of the population annually, contrasting with 1% in the UK (2). US restrictions on various aspects of food production are much less stringent than those of the UK and EU, meaning that imports will pose potential risks to the health of humans and animals in the UK. These include the overuse of antibiotics on farmed animals, pesticides, food colourings and genetically modified crops that are currently banned in the UK (3, 4).
Trade negotiations currently underway appear to give the lie to previous assurances. Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt has refused to say that a ban would remain on chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef and other US imports after an upcoming trade deal with Donald Trump (5). In place of regulation, she said she believed “we should be trusting the consumer,” echoing Sonny Perdue, the US secretary of agriculture, who has said: “If the consumer doesn’t want [such food products], they won’t buy them and that will change production, both in the United States and the UK.”(6) But our choices are only real choices if we have proper information, and yet the US considers nutrition labelling a ‘barrier to trade’ (7).
As individuals, we have little influence over international trade deals, but retailers have the power to protect their customers’ right to high quality produce. They need to know that we will continue to shop with them only if the food they sell is explicitly and unequivocally guaranteed to meet pre-Brexit standards for animal welfare, environmental protection, food safety, hygiene and traceability.
(3, 4) Centre for International Environmental Law Lowest Common Denominator 2015; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/19/crucial-antibiotics-still-used-on-us-farms-despite-public-health-fears
(7) Office of the United States Trade Representative Report on Foreign Trade Barriers 2019