Aldi has joined Waitrose in vowing never to sell hormone-injected beef or chlorinated chicken, amid consumer concern about these foods.
Four out of five people said they would feel uncomfortable eating beef that had been given growth hormones, while three out of four were uncomfortable eating chlorinated chicken, according to our June 2020 survey.*
Both are currently banned in the UK, along with other foods that don’t meet food safety standards. Yet they’re legal in the US, which is pushing to be able to import them onto our shelves under a potential UK-US trade deal.
Following calls for the government to not allow this to happen, Aldi has reiterated its commitment to only selling fresh chicken and beef that is 100% British.
Update: Since we published this story on 8 July, Co-op, M&S and Sainsbury’s have made similar commitments to not sell chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef. Tesco also reaffirmed a previous commitment to not sell these foods.
Aldi’s pledge to protect food standards
Aldi’s chief executive, Giles Hurley, said the company would always support British food suppliers.
He added: ‘We are a signatory to the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) Back British Farming Charter and our entire core range of fresh meat and milk is from Red Tractor-approved farms in the UK.
‘We will never compromise on the standards or specifications of our products, and that includes a commitment to never selling chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef.
‘Britain has some of the highest food-quality standards in the world, and our commitment to only source chicken and beef from this country means our customers know they are always buying high-quality Aldi products at unbeatable value.’
Waitrose also backs food standards
Waitrose also threw its weight behind calls for legal protections for food standards last month. Like Aldi, it has said that it will not stock hormone-injected beef or chlorinated chicken.
Executive director, James Bailey, told customers: ‘Any regression from the standards we have pioneered for the past 30 years, both as a business and as a country, would be an unacceptable backwards step.
‘We would be closing our eyes to a problem that exists in another part of the world and to animals who are out of our sight and our minds.’
Why Which? is worried
Even if all supermarkets pledge not to stock products that don’t meet current UK food safety standards, foods such as chlorinated chicken could still be present in the catering industry, where it’s harder to trace.
This is why we want food standards to be proactively enshrined in law and kept off the table in any trade deal the government makes. Legal commitments over maintaining food standards could be made through the Agriculture or Trade Bills currently before Parliament.
Chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are currently banned for import into the UK, with the government saying these rules will be retained through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. It has also said that it would not sign a trade deal that would compromise the UK’s environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards.
However, we are concerned both by the US government pushing to be able to import food of a lower standard in to the UK and the US agriculture lobby pushing to weaken UK labelling regulations as part of a trade deal. Chlorine washes are used to clean up poor conditions in farms and slaughterhouses and labelling changes could make it more difficult for consumers to make informed choices about the food they buy.
There are many benefits that can come through trade deals, including a deal with the US. But when it comes to food, we think that it’s essential to recognise that trade should be built on our existing food standards, so that consumers can be confident that they’re protected.
Find out more about trade deals and how they affect you.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which?, said:
‘It’s encouraging to see another supermarket recognising that customers really value food produced to our high domestic standards, and making this commitment to ensuring that chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef will not be stocked on their shelves.
‘However, the government should be acting decisively on this issue rather than leaving it to individual businesses to take the lead. It must legislate to protect food standards in the Trade Bill or Agriculture Bill, sending a strong signal to trading partners that decades of progress on food safety, quality and animal welfare will not be jeopardised wherever people shop or eat.’
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*On behalf of Which?, Populus surveyed 2,078 UK adults online between the 15 and 16 June 2020. The data were weighted to be demographically representative of the UK population.