Chlorinated chicken shows how prejudiced *both* sides are in Brexit debate

I am going to let you into a secret. I don’t know the first thing about food standards and even less about the use of chlorine in the preparation of chicken.

Here is thing, o Twitter users: in 99% of cases, nor do you…

Yet somehow last week half the people in social media appeared to have become experts. Their knowledge was such that they were able to tell us, beyond doubt, that allowing chlorinated chicken into the UK would constitute a “decline in food standards”. But what was this “expert opinion” based upon, exactly?

In the same way as some on the Leave side exhibit all kinds of prejudice against all things Continental, this looked suspiciously like prejudice against all things American. The assumption is that chlorinated chicken is a big food standard problem (because the EU banned it) and, implicitly, that American standards are generally lower anyway. Are they? Well, I don’t know. How do so many people in social media seem to know?

As it happens, chlorinated chicken was banned in the EU in the late 1990s. Do you not remember the big fuss at the time? Well, actually, nor do I.

It appears, in fact, that subsequent advice to the European Commission has been that chlorinated chicken is not, in fact, a major hazard. Presumably, this is why Americans eat it quite happily. Although of course it is a well known fact that European visitors to the United States avoid chicken there in the knowledge that it is chlorinated. Or maybe not so well known fact. Or maybe that they don’t actually avoid it at all?

Implicit to all of this is the widely held view in Europe that North America is an unregulated free-for-all. I can only conclude that most people who think that have never actually been to North America. My own experience of it, in fact, is that you are constantly being instructed everywhere you go – you cannot even enter a car park with all sorts of instructions about which zone to go to if your ticket is green, your car is blue, or your plate ends in the letter “K”. Regulations and bureaucracy are in fact everywhere.

Because I know nothing about food standards, it is absolutely possible that allowing chlorinated chicken would constitute a decline. However, what was noteworthy was how many people who had clearly never before had any knowledge of the issue were suddenly jumping on the issue like seasoned experts. This, as is a constant theme on this blog, betrayed (in the very precise meaning of the word) a blatant prejudice.

I would still very much like to remain in the EU. But you know one thing which definitely does not help that already uphill task? Blatant prejudice.


6 thoughts on “Chlorinated chicken shows how prejudiced *both* sides are in Brexit debate

  1. 416 says:

    I have a feeling many people research the tech specs of their gadgets more than they do the source of their food.

  2. Alan Burnside says:

    The EU ban on chlorinated chicken is a market protectionist measure and has nothing to do with food safety.

  3. andyboal says:

    The information I’ve read is that it’s partly the chlorine but also the treatment of the chickens which results in the requirement for the chlorine – EU chicken has to be managed far better throughout the process because they cannot make up for it at the end by washing in chlorine.

    Hormone-fed beef is another matter altogether. You’ll remember that apart from the scandal of mislabelling horsemeat a couple of years ago, it was also that the horses would have been fed hormones making them unfit for human consumption in the EU. It’s lawful to sell horsemeat as horsemeat as long as no hormones are involved.

    In both cases, though, it ends up with serious consequences for the UK. First of all, UK producers end up at a competitive disadvantage despite the transportation costs from the USA, and secondly we have the spectre of export restrictions unless we can prove that any chicken or beef we export is solely of UK origin and to EU standards (so much for making our own laws!)

    In the end, it’s a very timely reminder that any country seeking a free trade deal with the UK is not doing so in order to buy more things from us – it’s always so that they can improve their exports. The behaviour of China in flooding the UK market with steel and killing the British steel manufacturing industry when the UK blocked increased EU tariffs is a warning to us.

    It’s impossible to see how the USA seeking a free trade deal with the UK would be in order to improve our ability to export to the USA, rather than to ensure that the USA can more conveniently export to us – and they will certainly want to reverse our present trade surplus.

    • There is a broad point about whether seeking trade deals with the United States is wise, particularly in the current political climate.

      Nevertheless, I emphasise again I have no means even of judging whether information about food standards is accurate.

    • korhomme says:

      My understanding is that the chlorine is needed because of the way the chickens are reared; it seems they are ‘unsanitary’ compared to EU regulations. But then, we are also told not to wash UK chickens, as I was always taught, because of Campylobacter spp.

      Hormones are given to cattle to increase muscle mass.

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