Saving food standards becomes scary prospect

Campaigners spelt out SOS for ‘Save our Standards’ in pumpkins in a last ditch attempt to persuade MPs ahead of crunch Agriculture Bill vote on protecting British food standards under trade deals.

Ethical food campaigners wrote SOS for ‘Save our Standards’ in pumpkins in a Halloween stunt in front of parliament as a last ditch attempt to persuade MPs to protect British food and farming in law. 

Members of the farming union The Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) laid out the 1,000 pumpkins at the weekend to highlight what has become a landmark issue in the new Agriculture Bill, which would effectively ban things like chlorinated chicken produced in the US.

The Ag Bill returns to the Commons tomorrow (4 November) where MPs will once again vote on whether to legalise British standards of food quality and animal welfare, which any new trade deal would have to meet.

Citizens have been urged to write to their MPs ahead of the vote to express their concern over the issue, which will effectively determine what imported food will allowed to be sold in British supermarkets, restaurants and other food distributors in the future. 

Save our standards
A scary prospect: Pumpkins light up campaigner efforts to protect UK food standards. Image Jason Brooks.

It comes as the government continues in its Brexit talks with the EU, with the prospect of a no-deal meaning trade deals with other countries in the world are a priority.

MPs have already voted down the amendment to legalise food standards once, despite huge campaigner, celebrity and citizen pressure. The government has since strengthened its new Trade and Agriculture Commission, which it says will have powers to review trade deals, but seems unwilling to go further. 

Vegetable farmer Humphrey Lloyd, one of the farmers involved in the pumpkin stunt, said: “The idea that parliament should open up our market to food produced to US-style standards of pesticide and antibiotic residues is crazy. We need more local veg, not more imported chlorinated chicken.”

After the stunt, the pumpkins were delivered to local catering services that provide food for people in food poverty.

The LWA’s campaigns and policy coordinator, Jyoti Fernandes, said: “Farmers need to receive a fair price for their products in order to stay financially viable. If the UK allows in food that is produced to lower standards of farming practice – like pork injected with ractopamine – this food will be sold at a cheap per price, which undercuts UK farmers- meaning they won’t be able to compete with the prices of the food produced to lower standards and they will either be driven out of business or the UK will need to lower our farm production standards.”

Vicki Hird, sustainable farming campaign coordinator at Sustain said: “We don’t want MPs to squash the hopes of farmers, consumers and all who care about nature and animal welfare – they want to see our higher food standards protected from lower standard imports through changes to the Agriculture Bill.”

Since the time of writing, and during the debate on 4 November, MPs voted against putting food standards into law in the Agriculture Bill ahead of any future trade deal. 


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  1. At the moment since the Conservatives have a majority of 83+ allies they can pass any law they wish. That said, people like myself who have spent weeks campaigning to get the MPs to change their mind need to keep fighting.

    Only when the 330 Conservative MPs who voted in essence to lower UK Food Standards via the backdoor feel enough heat from the voters will they change course. A huge number of people in the UK are still unaware of this fight and how it will impact on public health for decades. This affects everyone, so here is one example: If an American apple that has 400 times the amount of pesticide on it, sits on a display in a café or school canteen how will anyone know?

    People think they can chose to avoid dirty unsafe food at their supermarkets, but only if it is labelled. How about hospital food or food served at Care Homes, catering for many places is produced elsewhere and then reheated on the premises. I used to work as a chef in America and this problem has grown up over the last 30 years due to the power (money) of lobbying and the corruption in the FDA, EPA. Autoimmune diseases, stomach ailments, cancer rates , birth abnormalities have all increased due to their dirty food. People need to understand this is bigger and longer lasting than Covid so we need to get serious about writing to our MPs (find out how they voted on these issues and sign the petitions to save our standards. I have links to 5 of the petitions on my blog post.

    1. Really good points raised about protecting food standards for all; those being served food in schools, carehomes and prisons won’t have any choice. Generally people only think about the decisions they will make when filling their shopping basket, but with labelling that will not have full information or state country of origin how much of a real choice is there? Maybe it’s time to put all ingredients that are used in food production on the label – including pesticides, herbicides, chlorine and meat additives too.

    2. Great suggestions about the labelling, but this government is doing this to make money for themselves, to them Brexit is a gravy train. So until we have a more decent government, chances are that labelling laws will loosened rather than tightened to hide the reality of unsafe contents.

    3. Maybe it’s time for a tax that accounts for the environmental and health damage that the product creates?
      About time that the polluter is the one that pays!
      We’ve seen that it’s worked to some degree with cigarettes.

  2. I wrote to my MP asking him to support the above. I tried to appeal to his better nature, asking him to consider the welfare of the animals as well as our health. Sadly though he is one of the one’s supporting the chlorine treated chicken I believe. I had heard ,rightly or wrongly, (not from the MP) that a deal had already been done for this chlorinated chicken around the time of the General election. Whether this is fact or just talk I dont know.
    We will have to show our determination on food standards etc by choosing wisely what we buy. But somehow the message needs to be got out there to those who dont know, and help them make wise and healthy choices.
    Perhaps the debate will start to get more people considering what they are eating, and demand for better produced food will become more commonplace? Lets hope so!

    1. I agree that people hope to be able to shield themselves by using wiser buying choices, but the facts remains that many people will not be in a circumstance or have the finances to make that choice.

      I try to stress to everyone that even if you buy organic that there will be times when you yourself or those you love will eat meals which may contain unsafe meat and produce either via school meals, meals at a care homes or even hospitals because of the very slim profit margins these meals are made for.

      We cannot hide from this and the time for a gentle debate has come and gone. We just need to get everyone to watch the channel 4 documentary and then everyone to share it.

      So far all of our campaigning (NFU, Which,ChangeOrg,38Degrees GreenpeaceUK) via 5 main petitions has gathered 2,650,000 signatures, and has gotten 260,000 people to write and email their MPs. We need to double or triple that number to make the 330 Tory MPs wonder whether their choices could cost them their seats, only then will they draw back this decision.

      If you take time to look at my article via the link in my comment above it has links to all 5 petitions and gives you a lot more of the scary details.


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