A petition calling for MPs to “keep British food safe after Brexit” is approaching half a million signatures as concerns over American beef are aired.
Erik Millstone has called on the government to officially commit to ensuring that the UK’s food standards are not weakened after Brexit – or raised even higher.
It comes as protections of minimum food safety standards seemingly evaporated after a Labour amendment to the Agriculture Bill was voted down in parliament under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic.
MPs passed the legislation’s third reading in a virtual vote – 360 – 211 despite guarantees of a minimum standard to protect British food – and therefor British farming – being absent from the overhaul of UK agriculture.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has previously refused to rule out chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef being imported from the US in a post-Brexit trade deal.
Petition author Millstone said he has spent decades researching and writing about food policy in the UK, and co-authored a report on the risks of hormone-treated beef post-Brexit.
They found that there’s a serious risk the UK will lower our food standards to secure a trade deal with the USA – introducing an “unnecessary and unacceptable risk to our public health”.
He added: “It could also increase animal suffering by opening the door to high-intensity beef production systems that are associated with overcrowding, poor cattle handling and heat stress. Allowing hormone-reared beef could also mean that EU Member States would stop buying British beef as hormone-treated beef would remain unlawful there.
“Regardless of what kind of Brexit deal we end up with – the British people deserve the highest food standards. So we want both the Environment Minister and the shadow Environment Minister to provide written statements committing to upholding current standards.
“Leaving the EU must not mean that food standards decline and the British public are exposed to dangerous hormones. Please sign my petition calling on the government and opposition to make a long-term commitment to maintain, or raise, current food standards.”
The petition is approaching half a million signatures, but it may escape the attention of MPs because it is hosted on change.org.
According to a parliamentary spokesperson who spoke to The London Economic petitions on the platform have never qualified for debate in Parliament.
The Petitions Committee only has the remit to consider those that are started on the Parliament petitions site because they are unable to moderate external site petitions, meaning people from outside of the UK could contribute and they could be subject to fraudulent signatures.