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Britain won't allow imports of chlorine-washed chicken

Chicken washing is issue in U.K.-U.S. trade talks.

by Thomas Penny and Charlotte Ryan

Britain won’t allow in imports of American chlorine-washed chicken as part of the post-Brexit trade deal it’s seeking with the U.S., the cabinet minister responsible for food and farming said. 

“I’ve made it perfectly clear, and indeed this is something on which all members of the government are agreed, that we are not going to dilute our high animal-welfare standards or our high environmental standards in pursuit of any trade deal,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program Wednesday.

Discussion about whether the U.K. should accept U.S. standards, under which chicken is washed during processing with antimicrobial rinses to remove harmful bacteria, has overshadowed a trip to Washington this week by British Trade Secretary Liam Fox, in which he’s attempting to prepare the ground for a trade accord.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Monday that the cabinet was split on the issue; Gove’s comments suggest a unified approach. Fox, questioned about the issue after a speech in Washington that day, said the U.K. media are "obsessed" by a "detail of the very end stage of one sector of the potential agreement.” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London Monday that they were “getting way ahead” of themselves. 

Interviewed on BBC Television’s “Newsnight” program Tuesday, Fox took a different line from Gove, saying that while there’s “no health issue” with chlorine-washing, it’s “perfectly reasonable” to raise animal-welfare concerns.

“We will want to ensure that the scientific advice that we have ensures proper protection for British consumers because dropping our standards is not the way for Britain,” Fox said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at [email protected]; Charlotte Ryan in London at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at [email protected]

Eddie Buckle, Mark Williams

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P

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