The Guardian

The Guardian 15 Nov 2019

Should we fear chlorinated chicken?

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Chlorinated chicken hardly sounds like something you'd enjoy to read on a menu. The European Union bans imports of chlorine-washed chicken from the US but a post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal could allow exports to the UK. So what's the truth about chlorinated chicken and is it safe to eat?


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… show captions ↓
the UK has voted to leave the European Union since the referendum Britain's
been hit with fears over brexit food and medicine shortages panic buying crisis
at the border a rise in public disorder and then there's this join me at Donald
Trump's house of wings chlorinated chicken which as unpalatable
as it sounds could form part of a new trade deal between Britain and America
post brexit so is it another thing to worry about let's start off with that
odd name what on earth does it mean chlorinated chicken is a catch-all term
has been used to describe the process of disinfecting poultry meat produced in
the US near the end of a production line birds go through chemical rinses that
kill harmful bacteria like e-coli Salmonella and Campylobacter basically
things which you definitely don't want to be eating ok so this sounds like it's
a public health story right I mean it can't be good for you eating poorly
dr. Fox sir would you personally feel comfortable eating corn washed chicken
and on the surface this is what you'd think especially as chlorinated chicken
has been banned in the EU since 1997 however in 2005 the European Food Safety
Authority found that the trace amounts of chemicals from chlorinated chicken
posed no safety concern for consumers and in fact most supermarket salads and
baked vegetables Ettore more plus we've been drinking the stuff from out of taps
for decades so if it's not about drinking chlorine you have old it wrecks
it now you're gonna get the chlorinated chicken then why is chlorinated chicken
ruffling so many feathers the British media are obsessed with chlorine washed
chickens the --use major worry is that chemical rinses could be used to hide
poor practices within chicken farms and factories to understand this we're going
to take a quick look at how poultry is mass-produced and a warning things might
get a bit grim
to satisfy global demand chicken is produced on an industrial scale most
birds live for around 40 days reared in their thousands inside crowded sheds and
fed to an unnatural sized one slaughtered they'll join a
semi-automated factory line to be deep feathered gutted and portioned up ready
for sale this is how 95% of all chicken bots in the UK's made and producing
chicken at this pace means the threat of disease and bacterial
cross-contamination is very high which in the u.s. is where chemical rinses
come in within you though a principle called farm-to-fork legislates a
safety-first approach to hygiene and animal welfare across agriculture which
in theory makes chemical rinses unnecessary minimum living standards for
things like how much space birds have to roam ammonia levels even lighting
conditions are all set by laws whereas in the u.s. similar standards are only
guidelines that farmers choose to opt in or out of combine this laid-back
lawmaking with chemical rinses and you have the potential for serious
malpractice to be covered up and that's what bothers the EU for
example chemical rinses could hide the fact that a farm abuses birds or
overcrowded sheds and they could also mask poor hygiene during processing
where it's vital cross contamination risks are properly managed so on leaving
the European Union Britain must face a dilemma will it keep the same food
safety standards from the EU or move towards less regulating models like the
u.s. neither method is a hundred percent guaranteed against an outbreak of
foodborne illness but is once safer than the other the simple answer is it's
complicated official figures would suggest that your general chances of
getting food poisoning are higher in America but try to compare these figures
and those are poultry borne disease is hard to do as the data isn't like for
life however one study in 2018 did find that chemical rinses may reduce but not
totally kill off harmful bacteria chlorinated chicken there may not be the
big scare story for the reasons you'd expect but one place you might find real
fear is within Britain's own farming communities this is the key question
because it would undermine British production we've got English agriculture
working on very very tight margins and very high standards the threat to
British farmers from importing cheap US chicken could leave many of them
struggling to compete unless standards are dropped we as a nation have got to
make up our minds whether we want really cheap cheerful at which case a lot of
English agriculture will go to the war
none of this will matter if brexit doesn't happen but if it does and a US
UK trade deal is agreed Brits will likely find American chickens chillin
alongside British and EE ones and supermarket fridges so what might these
choices boil down to well if you want the best animal welfare
look out for these logos on the label if you're worried about standards generally
choosing British or EU chicken would be the best option but if price matters
most the American chlorinated chicken could be your meal ticket the theater
this story isn't so much about eating wings with an unhealthy sign of chlorine
I feel like I just swallowed a mouthful of bandages it's more to do with
importing cheap unregulated food into Britain and what I could do to things
like food safety animal welfare and UK farming ultimately bank the decision on
whether the UK will accept chlorinated chicken will be made by British
consumers at the checkouts thanks very much for watching this video I hope you
enjoyed we want to know what you think in the comments below like would it be
enough to put you off your Sunday roast if you knew that your chicken was
chlorine washed if you enjoy these videos please like and subscribe and
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