Radio week: Do you want chlorine for chicken?


SO, yes or no, chlorinated chicken? And is that the right question, even? What would be the post-EU result of a free trade deal between the UK and the US as we prepare to leave the EU?

According to The Food Programme on Radio 4 on Sunday, economically, not much, practically (repeated on Monday). According to the British government’s own figures, an agreement will raise gross domestic product by around 0.16 percent over the next 15 years. Politically, it’s a different matter, however.

And that’s where you get the chlorinated chicken. It has become a sign of the fears that could emerge from an agreement like this: an enthusiastic U.S. market that wants to force its chicken on us, even though its food requirements are different from ours.

“Sonny Perdue, the outgoing U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (speaking with the charisma of a Bond villain; but maybe that reflects my bias) told the host of the show, Charlotte Smith, that some people want to pay more for “sentimentality in their food consumption.” U.S. farmers should provide good, inexpensive food for those who did not want the sentimentality or could not afford it.

The fact is, we don’t have self-sufficiency in the UK with chicken. And although British customers claim that food standards are significant, they are also price driven. Free-range is about six percent of the chicken sold in the UK.

Cath Elliston of the BiteBack food protest campaign pointed out that as public sector budgets continue to be slashed, all inexpensive imported U.S. chicken is used in colleges, nursing homes and hospitals. And it’s not just chicken that we need to be worried about. A U.S.-Canada agreement has contributed to an influx into Canada of high-fructose corn syrup, contributing, she claims, to a tripling of obesity rates. Yummy. Yummy.

Watch out: Hygge by Sandi Toksvig, Radio 4, Wednesday, 6:30pm. A new series in which Sandi Toksvig, pictured, speaks about the Danish way of life to different celebrities.


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