Tag: food

MPs reject calls by campaigners to enshrine food safety in UK law

Farmers and food campaigners were defeated on Monday night in their attempts to enshrine high food safety and animal welfare practices in British law.



a tractor in front of a building: A demonstration by farmers outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of the vote.


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A demonstration by farmers outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of the vote.

Several prominent backbench Tory MPs rebelled against the government to vote for amendments to the agriculture bill that would have given legal status to the standards, but the rebels were too few to overcome the government’s 80-seat majority and the key amendment fell by 332 votes to 279 after an often impassioned debate.

The government argued that giving current standards legal status was unnecessary as ministers had already committed to ensuring that UK food standards would be kept in any post-Brexit trade agreements. However, critics fear that the lack of a legally binding commitment in the agriculture bill will allow future imports of sub-standard food that will undercut British produce and expose consumers to risk.

Kath Dalmeny, chair of the Future British Standards Coalition, said: “It’s dismaying that the government has opposed attempts to put into law its own commitment to maintain British food standards. It is perfectly possible to have high standards at home and sign trade deals with new trading partners who meet them. It’s what consumers have repeatedly said they want.”

The bill, with its defeated amendments, will now return to the House of Lords and there will be further chances this week for debate. But the government’s majority gives proponents of a tougher bill a hill to climb, despite a recent YouGov poll that showed nine out of 10 people want to protect British standards on food and animal welfare in trade deals.

Katie White, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF, said: “We hope the Lords take this public mandate to deliver the Conservative manifesto commitment to maintain standards, especially after it was significantly backed by Conservative MPs. We call on peers to secure guarantees that the public and MPs are told upfront about any changes to standards that might happen as a result of trade deals, and that the final say on any changes will be a decision for our elected representatives.”

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The votes came as a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 revealed the poor hygiene and welfare among livestock on intensive farms in the US. Although the government has given repeated assurances that chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef would not be imported to the UK under any trade deals, campaigners point out that banning these two products would still allow the import of many types of other food produced under conditions and with drugs, including antibiotics, that would be illegal in the UK.

Luke Pollard, the shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, said: “The Conservatives have again broken their promise to British farmers and the public. No one wants lower quality food on our plates, but there

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UK government set to defy campaign on imported food standards

The UK government is set to reject legal measures to uphold food standards in future trade deals, defying a campaign backed by farming unions, TV chef Jamie Oliver and more than a million members of the public.

The House of Lords voted to add amendments to the agriculture bill passing through parliament to require that any imported food products meet UK domestic standards on food safety, animal welfare and the environment.

But ministers have signalled they will not back the change, or another amendment giving the new Trade and Agriculture Commission a statutory role in scrutinising trade agreements, when the bill returns to the House of Commons next week.

They believe measures effectively requiring identical food standards to those of the UK would prevent them from negotiating new trade deals.

George Eustice, environment secretary, this week told a Conservative conference fringe event that “we are unlikely to be accepting amendments to the bill”.

Trade secretary Liz Truss, who opposes the amendments, told the Commons on Thursday that they would bar imports from developing countries.

Responding to a question from shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry, Ms Truss said: “If the honourable lady is suggesting a blanket ban on any food imports that do not comply exactly with British farm regulations, what she is talking about is preventing developing countries sending their foodstuffs to the UK.

“Is she saying she wants to ban Kenyans from exporting their foodstuffs to us if they don’t follow exactly the same farm standards as here in Britain?”

The issue of food standards has become a totemic one as the UK seeks to carve out its post-Brexit trading identity. The amendments are backed by Labour and a group of Conservative rebel MPs.

The National Farmers’ Union in June attracted more than 1m signatures on a petition urging government “to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here”.

Last month, in a video on social media, Mr Oliver and other chefs and broadcasters urged the public to write to their MPs on the issue. 

“You’ve heard about chlorinated chicken, right — it’s when chicken meat is washed in chlorine to get rid of bacteria from dirty farms and abattoirs. It’s currently illegal in the UK. That’s what could be coming if the government opens up the floodgates to low quality food imports,” they said.

Farmers are also concerned about meat produced using additives and hormones prohibited in the UK, and pork raised using “sow stalls”, which tightly confine the animals.

Any deal with the US, which has placed access for its agricultural products to the UK market on its list of negotiating priorities, is a particular concern.

The idea that American food standards are broadly inferior has been called into question, however: the Global Food Security Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, for example, rates the US above the UK for “quality and safety” of food.

While rejecting the legal provisions, Ms

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Letter from Trump taking credit for aid now mandated in government food boxes: report

The Department of Agriculture is mandating that letters from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE be included in millions of food assistance boxes, according to Politico.

The $4 billion Families to Farmers Food Box Program has distributed 100 million boxes already, the USDA announced Wednesday. The program delivers surplus goods that would normally go to restaurants to families experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Organizations tasked with distributing the food have complained that the messaging and campaign-like letters included in the boxes appear to have the goal of boosting the president’s image ahead of the election.

“In my 30 years of doing this work, I’ve never seen something this egregious,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, told Politico. “These are federally purchased boxes.”

The fact that the letters were included in some of the boxes was first reported by Fox News in July. On Wednesday the White House posted a campaign-style video on Twitter touting the food boxes with remarks Trump made in North Carolina in August before a crowd of a few hundred people.

The letter, which comes in English and Spanish, says: “As President, safeguarding the health and well-being of our citizens is one of my highest priorities. As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

Some lawmakers have argued that the letters could potentially violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials besides the president and vice president from engaging in politics in their official capacity. 

“Using a federal relief program to distribute a self-promoting letter from the President to American families just three months before the presidential election is inappropriate and a violation of federal law,” a group of 49 House Democrats, led by Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeThis week: House returns for pre-election sprint House to tackle funding, marijuana in September Honoring John Lewis’s voting rights legacy MORE of Ohio, wrote in an Aug. 14 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueTrump administration finalizes plan to open up protected areas of Tongass National Forest to logging  Perdue has found the right path in National Forests Democrats seek clarity on payroll tax deferral for federal workers MORE.

“A public health crisis is not an opportunity for the administration to promote its own political interests. Likewise, a federal food assistance program should not be used as a tool for the President to exploit taxpayer dollars for his re-election campaign.”

In a statement to The Hill, the Agriculture Department said “politics has played zero role in the Farmers to Families food box program it is purely about helping farmers and distributors get food to Americans in need during this unprecedented time.” 

The agency noted the letters have been included for

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