MPs have voted against maintaining food hygiene and animal welfare standards in the UK - here's what it means

(Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)
(Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Michael Gove has voted against maintaining food hygiene and animal welfare standards, after previously pledging not to.

Gove was one of 337 MPs who voted against an amendment to introduce additional agricultural welfare protections to the bill that will provide the framework for post-Brexit trade negotiations.

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The amendment - put forward by Labour MPs - was defeated by 337 votes to 251, with Conservative MPs dubbing it unnecessary, as the party had already committed to maintaining standards.

As far back as 2017, Gove said the government "agreed that there should be no compromise on high animal welfare and environmental standards.

“In America, they cannot guarantee the same high standards in terms of how chickens are reared that we insist on here.”

What would the clause have meant?

The clause called for future deals to only allow the importing of agricultural goods produced to standards "as high as, or higher than, the standards which at the time of import applied under UK law.”

These standards would have applied to animal health and welfare, protection of the environment, food safety, hygiene, traceability, and plant health.

With a post-Brexit future fast approaching, food standards in the wake of the UK's break with the bloc have been pulled back into focus.

Concerns around the UK’s food safety standards have been growing as post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and the US could prompt food imports of a lower quality standard, with chlorinated chicken often cited as the biggest reason to worry.

Retailers Aldi, Waitrose, Co-op, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury's recently vowed never to sell the likes of hormone-injected beef or chlorinated chicken, as consumer concerns grow.

Should I worry about chlorinated chicken?

As it stands, chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are both illegal in the UK, as they don’t meet our food safety standards. However, in June it appeared that Boris Johnson had folded on his pledge against the products, as he refused to repeat it at Downing Street.

A survey run by consumer watchdog Which? found that four out of five people said they would be uncomfortable eating beef that had been given growth hormones. Three out of four people were also uncomfortable with eating chlorinated chicken.

But Conservative MP Greg Hands MP said the bill's defeat would not leave the door open for chlorinated chicken.

"The Opposition think they are talking about chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef,” he said.

"But are they actually able to look people in the eye and say that cocoa from the Ivory Coast has been produced to at least as high environmental standards as in the UK?"