Supermarket chain Aldi has vowed to never sell chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef amid fears they could be imported under a potential UK-US trade agreement.
The food retailer, which describes itself as the UK’s fifth largest supermarket, has ruled out selling the products regardless of any future trade deal.
CEO Giles Hurley said the company would always be “one of the biggest supporters” of British food suppliers.
He added: “We are a signatory to the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) Back British Farming Charter and our entire core range of fresh meat and milk is from Red Tractor-approved farms in the UK.
“We will never compromise on the standards or specifications of our products, and that includes a commitment to never selling chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef.
“Britain has some of the highest food quality standards in the world, and our commitment to only source chicken and beef from this country means our customers know they are always buying high quality Aldi products at unbeatable value.”
His comments follow Waitrose throwing its weight behind calls for legal protections for food standards last month as negotiations over a UK-US trade deal continue.
Executive director James Bailey told customers that “any regression from the standards we have pioneered for the last 30 years, both as a business and as a country, would be an unacceptable backwards step”.
He added: “It would be simply wrong to maintain high standards at home yet import food from overseas that has been produced to lower standards.
“We would be closing our eyes to a problem that exists in another part of the world and to animals who are out of our sight and our minds.”
Which? has argued that legal commitments over maintaining food standards could be made through the Agriculture or Trade Bills currently before Parliament.
The consumer group has said it is concerned by “a push” from the US agriculture lobby to weaken UK labelling regulations as part of a trade deal, claiming US farming processes contribute to high levels of food-borne illness among Americans.
Chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are banned for import into the UK, with the Government saying these rules will be retained post-Brexit through the EU Withdrawal Act.
It has also said that it would not sign a trade deal that would compromise the UK’s environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards.
The Co-op supermarket chain says it was the first retailer to switch all of its fresh meat products to 100% British produced in 2017, with the policy now extending over frozen meat and products with meat ingredients.
Morrisons has also committed to sell 100% fresh British own-brand meat, milk and eggs in its stores.
A spokesman for Tesco said its position over the issue had not changed since last September when CEO Dave Lewis ruled out the supermarket giant selling chlorine-washed chicken.
Mr Lewis told the Financial Times Future of Retail conference: “When people talk about let’s go back to genetically modified foods or chlorinated chicken, if you have that conversation with UK customers, then they reject it. As a retailer we will have to respect what people want.”
He added: “There is no US sourcing of chicken on my mind.”
A spokesperson for Asda said: “We have no intentions of changing our current approach to welfare and safety standards in our fresh meat and poultry categories and will always be guided by our customers when it comes to the products we put on our shelves.”
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to offering our customers the best possible choice, quality and value while continuing to uphold our high standards and there are no plans to change this.”
Iceland is committed to ensuring suppliers follow standards of animal welfare endorsed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.
A spokesman said: “We have no plans to stock chicken that has been treated with chlorine or beef that has been treated with hormones.”
According to the results of a Which? survey published last month, some 86% of consumers feared that a post-Brexit free trade agreement could lead to currently banned products appearing in the UK.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which? said: “It’s encouraging to see another supermarket recognising that customers really value food produced to our high domestic standards.”
She reiterated calls for legislation to protect food standards, arguing that “the Government should be acting decisively on this issue rather than leaving it to individual businesses to take the lead”.
Her comments were echoed by the RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood, who said: “We should export higher welfare standards, not import barren battery-cage eggs, pork from pigs kept in sow stalls, hormone-fed beef or chlorinated chicken which will undercut British farming standards and start a race to the bottom in animal welfare standards.”
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