Photographer: PhotoAlto/Milena Boniek/PhotoAlto

Chlorinated Chicken Back on the Menu in Britain’s Brexit Debate

The issue of whether chlorinated chicken should be allowed on British dinner tables became a Brexit talking point once again Wednesday as Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Environment Secretary Michael Gove fielded questions by lawmakers.

Fox defiantly told Parliament’s International Trade Committee there are “no health reasons” for consumers not to eat a product whose sale in the U.K. many fear will be a condition of a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S.

“I have no objection to the British public being sold anything that is safe as long as they know what they’re eating,” he said. U.S. hygiene rules allow chicken to be washed in chlorine, which breaches European Union standards.

An hour later, Gove, who had been extolling the virtues of British organic farming, faced the tricky task of telling a House of Lords committee that farmers should make animal welfare central to marketing their post-Brexit British produce, without contradicting his cabinet colleague.

“An enlightened approach towards animal welfare can work in our favor when it comes to marketing,” Gove said. When challenged about the chicken -- which is treated with chlorine to kill off any diseases caused by factory farming -- he said that while there’s “no question that the chicken is fit for human consumption in terms of health, the question is welfare.”

“We will maintain high animal-welfare standards in any trade deal,” the environment secretary said.

A third serving of chlorinated chicken was on the agenda that very afternoon, when Environmental Audit Committee member Caroline Lucas, the sole Green Party lawmaker in the House of Commons, pointed out to Gove that Fox seems much more “relaxed” about the chlorine-washed fowl being allowed for import in the U.K.

“I think choice is always a good thing,” Gove said. “I don’t think Liam was asked about animal welfare standards.”

— With assistance by Thomas Penny

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