Chlorine-washed chicken roils UK trade secretary’s appearance
July 25, 2017
A British reporter's question to United Kingdom International Trade Secretary Liam Fox about whether he would eat chlorine-washed chicken seemed to unsettle Fox at an American Enterprise Institute event on July 24.
Fox traveled to Washington to meet with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin discussions about the trade relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. after the U.K. leaves the EU.
According to reports during the weekend, opening the U.K. to U.S. agricultural imports, including chicken washed in chlorine, will be a major element in the negotiations, but Fox did not mention food or agriculture in his speech.
Washing chicken in chlorine is a standard practice in U.S. large-scale agricultural production, but U.K. consumer groups and their counterparts on the European continent have used their objections to prevent U.S. chicken from being imported to their countries.
Nick Allen, the Washington editor for The Daily Telegraph, asked Fox if he would eat chicken washed in chlorine.
Fox said "the British media are obsessed" with chlorine-washed chicken in a debate that should be about the complexities of trade relations. That issue, Fox added, "would be a detail at the very end stage of one sector" in the negotiations.
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Fox also said he would like to know if Washington-based British reporters avoid chicken while living in the U.S.
Claude Barfield, the AEI resident scholar on trade who interviewed Fox and fielded questions, noted the U.S. has entered into an agreement with China to import cooked Chinese chicken, and said if the British do not want to eat chlorine-washed U.S. chicken, they can eat Chinese chicken.
Barfield also said when AEI first moved into its new headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue, staffers ate food from Chick-fil-A for two weeks.
Chick-fil-A stirred controversy in 2012 when CEO Dan Cathy made comments condemning gay marriage, but the company has since moved away from those comments, USA Today reported.
A Daily Telegraph article said there is a debate within the Cabinet of Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May regarding the issue.
U.S. farm leaders have said they hope the two governments can establish a trading relationship in which the U.K. is open to more imports from the U.S., including chlorine-washed chicken and biotech products, than EU officials in Brussels have been willing to accept.
But the U.K. has some of the strongest consumer groups in the world, particularly in the area of animal welfare.
In his speech, Fox emphasized the importance of services negotiations. When the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the EU were alive, U.K. negotiators were attempting to get the U.S. to agree to looser financial services regulations that would have benefited London's banking and investment sector.
Fox said he will release a report on July 25 that details the U.S.-U.K. trade relationship in every U.S. congressional district. Fox is scheduled to speak at a breakfast on Capitol Hill that morning.