Britain's politicians can't seem to agree on food import standards. 

By Elisabeth Sherman
Updated July 27, 2017
chicken house perdue chicken
Credit: Courtesy of Perdue

The U.K.’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, has announced that the U.K. will back out of any trade deal with the U.S. that requires them to lower their food standards—but not everyone in the country agrees with this point of view. The food item at the heart of the debate? Chlorinated chicken.

The Guardian reports that the U.K.’s trade secretary, Liam Fox, suggested that the U.K. should relax their standards when it comes to allowing chickens treated with a chlorine wash (which is banned in the EU, but used in the United States), into the country. Gove chafed against Fox’s statements, yesterday promising that, “lowering environmental or agricultural standards would be a deal-breaker.”

Gove spoke in no uncertain terms to the BBC, warning that the U.S. would have to “kiss goodbye,” any trade deal that would require the U.K. to compromise on their strict import regulations.

Even as the U.K. is the midst of exiting the EU, Gove insisted that his country still wants to be a leader when it comes to “environmental and animal welfare standards.”

In the U.S., chicken treated with chlorine is legal. Treating chicken carcasses in such a way reduces the chances of contamination of the meat by bacteria, according to chicken producers. Regulators in the EU banned the treatment for fear that producers would use the chlorine treatment to create the illusion of fresher chicken, according to a report from CNBC. President Trump tweeted this week that the trade deal with the U.K. is “very big & exciting,” but that “protectionist,” EU regulations are stymying otherwise positive negotiations.

Not everyone in the U.K. is so keen to work with the U.S., however. Barry Gardiner, one of Fox’s colleagues in the U.K.’s trade department, warned that comprising on chlorinated chicken could put chicken farmers, and the people who eat their products, at risk.

“By arguing the case for chlorine-washed chicken, Liam Fox shows he is ready to abandon British poultry farmers in favor of cheap U.S. imports that do not meet our sanitary or animal welfare standards," he said.

Fox—who insists that the British media is “obsessed” with the chlorinated chicken issue to the point of endangering a trade agreement with the U.S.—refused to reveal to reporters if he would eat chlorinated chicken himself.