Consumer group Which? warns cheap food imports could destroy public trust

Consumer group Which? has warned consumer confidence in the UK’s food industry could suffer should trade deals pave the way for low-standard imports.

In a letter to the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, Which? warned that 72% of the British public do not want food of a lower standard imported into the country.

The letter signed by Sue Davies, the firm’s head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy, read: “The UK should be proud of the strides we have made over the past two decades to ensure that wherever people buy and eat food it is underpinned by robust safety, quality and welfare standards.

Since the BSE crisis, the UK has led a food safety revolution that has given us an enviable system across the food chain.

“This could all be at risk depending on the approach that the government takes when it begins a second round of trade talks with the US on Monday.

“Which? recognises the benefits of trade and the benefits that could come from a UK-US trade deal – but this cannot be at the expense of our food standards and consumer confidence in what we eat.”

Davies said the firm believed it is vital that all consumers can buy food produced to the UK’s high standards, and we do not create a “two-tiered system”, where it is only those who can afford to who can do this.

Davies added: “UK consumers have a legitimate fear that two decades of progress on food safety and animal welfare could be traded away in just two weeks of negotiations with the US, due to the government’s failure to provide clear assurances that food standards will be upheld.

While there are many benefits to be gained from a trade deal with the US, this can not be at the expense of our food standards and consumer confidence in what we eat.

“The government must stand by its promise to protect food standards by legislating in the Agriculture or Trade Bills, so British consumers can have confidence that these standards will not be undermined by future trade deals.

“The government’s manifesto commitment that the UK “will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards” was very welcome. However, over recent weeks we have been concerned that this stance has changed.

…This weaker approach risks both destroying the public’s trust in trade deals and leaving our future national approach to food entirely compromised.

“We, therefore, urge you to listen to the British public who value the UK’s high food standards and ensure that they are upheld in the negotiations.”