In preparation for the second reading of the Trade Bill in the House of Commons, the Soil Association has released a report on the potential food safety risks posed by a free trade deal with the US.

Some of the key differences between UK and US production – hormone-treated beef, GM crops and chlorinated chicken – are becoming increasingly understood by British consumers.

The report highlights a number of other areas where products imported from the US could be produced under significantly different standards, including the inclusion of food colourants that have been withdrawn from the UK, the use of the herbicide Atrazine that has previously been linked with human health risks, and the sale of chicken litter as animal feed which was banned by the EU in 2001.

Honor Eldridge, policy officer at the Soil Association, said: "British farming has a reputation for high food safety and high animal welfare. It is imperative that any future trade deal does not result in a dilution of these standards for consumers. Nor should any deal competitively disadvantage UK farmers. We welcome Michael Gove’s assertion that the UK should not race to the bottom in competing with cheap imports, as well as his commitment to supporting environmentally-friendly farming practice. If the UK government is to achieve its goal of improving and strengthening our food standards, future trade agreements must reflect these commitments. To this end, any future trade negotiations must be conducted transparently and with input from public stakeholders.”


The Soil Associations's Top 10 Food Safety Risks Posed By A Future Transatlantic Trade Deal:

1. Chlorine washed chicken (banned in EU)

Instead of preventing infection in chickens across all stages of rearing and slaughter, the American poultry industry has resorted to chemicals to eliminate bacteria at the end of the meat production chain. Essentially, chemical washes hope to make up for inadequate hygiene on farms and abattoirs. In contrast, the EU has chosen another approach to fighting meat-borne bacteria through their landmark ‘farm to fork’ approach which requires steps throughout the production chain to ensure food is safe.

2. Hormone-treated beef (banned in EU)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a number of steroid hormone drugs for use in beef cattle and sheep, including natural oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and their synthetic versions. These drugs increase the animals’ growth rate and the efficiency by which they build muscle.

3. Ractopamine in pork (banned in EU)

In the US, an estimated 60-80 percent of pigs are fed the beta agonist drug, ractopamine prior to slaughter to increase protein synthesis, which results in increased muscle fibre size, weight gain, improve feed efficiency, and increase carcass leanness in swine. Ractopamine has been found to cause the animal serious disability, including trembling, broken limbs and an inability to walk.

4. Chicken litter as animal feed (banned in EU)

In the US, chicken litter (a rendered down mix of chicken manure, dead chickens, feathers and spilled feed) is marketed as a cheap feed product, particularly for cows. In the US, the use of poultry litter in cow feed is unrestricted.

5. Atrazine-treated crops (banned in EU)

Atrazine is estimated to be the second most heavily used herbicide in the U.S. with 73.7 million pounds of the chemical compound applied in the United States in 2013. It was used on more than half of all corn crops and up to 90 percent of sugar cane. Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents. The chemical has also been found to possibly induce breast and prostate cancer in lab animals.

6. GE foods (banned in EU)

In the US, 88% of corn, 93% of soy, 94% of cotton, 54% of sugar beets, 75% of papaya is genetically modified. There are also biotech products created through gene editing technology such as the non-browning Artic Apple.

7. Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) (banned in EU)

This synthetic additive is used in citrus drinks to keep flavour evenly distributed. However, BVO is also used as a flame retardant. Public health concerns have been raised since chemically similar flame-retardant chemicals disrupt normal hormone function, leading to problems with brain development in children, fertility, thyroid function, and possibly cancer.

8. Potassium bromate (banned in EU)

Potassium Bromate is approved by the FDA to improve the gluten content in baked goods to strengthen dough and promote rising. It has been found to be a possible carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer.

9. Azodicarbonamide (banned in EU)

Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is used as a whitening or bleaching agent for cereal flour and as a dough conditioner in baking. During baking, ADA breaks down to form a number of different chemicals. One of these chemicals is semicarbizide (SEM) that has been found to increase the incidence of tumours in lab rats.

10. Food colourants (banned in UK)

In the US, the public can purchase and consume products that include Yellow 5 and 6, Red 3 and 40, Blue 1 and 2, Green 3 and Orange B.