The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called on the UK government to make a legal commitment to ban chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef from supermarket shelves.
In advance of new agriculture legislation, the NFU president, Minette Batters, said she was not demanding that imported chickens should luxuriate in “10ft-high straw beds” but that the UK’s high standards of animal welfare should be imposed on imports.
“We’ve had so much talk about chlorinated chicken. The thing is, if we don’t put a marker in the sand, if government doesn’t put a red line down in the agricultural bill, that allows secondary legislation on any day of the week effectively to change it. You have to put that marker down and say: ‘No, you know, we’re going to stick by our word today,’” she said.
In an exchange with the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, at the Conservative party conference, Batters called on the government to support the Curry amendment to the agriculture bill, which returns to the House of Commons on 12 October.
Lord Curry’s amendment is designed to give the recently assembled trade and agriculture commission (TAC) a stronger role in scrutinising trade deals.
Truss came under repeated fire over the lack of perceived scrutiny in parliament for trade deals from the government’s food tsar, Henry Dimbleby, who called for full parliamentary scrutiny, including evidence and witness accounts to select committees of all post-Brexit trade deals.
He has also called on Truss to put a health expert on the TAC before the nation’s bus stops and billboard are “covered in ads for Hershey bars”. “Our diets are already one of the worst in the world, and we do not want to make it any worse,” he said.
Truss rejected the accusation of secrecy and said all signed trade deals would go before an independent trade commission chaired by the SNP’s Angus Brendan MacNeil, who was not a “government patsy”.
They would also be subject to an impact assessment process to analyse economic and social consequences, and their report would go before parliament and be debated. Under the so-called Crag process it could be blocked indefinitely if there were an objection.
She also said industry players would be consulted in confidence on key elements of trade deals. The tariff offer from the US was about to be shared with “trusted” advisory groups from 11 sectors under non-disclosure agreements.