Liam Fox's trip to the US has heightened fears the UK may have to compromise on food and animal safety standards if it wants a trade deal after Brexit.
US farmers are expected to lobby for agriculture to be included in any trade deal, a deal that could see chlorine-washed chicken, GM crops and hormone-fed beef imported into Britain for the first time, The Guardian says.
However, Fox yesterday complained transatlantic trade talks were being undermined by the media's "obsession" with the issue.
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"In a debate which should be about how you get, or make, a contribution to global liberalisation and the prosperity of both the UK, the US and our trading partners... the British media are obsessed with chlorine-washed chickens," he told the American Enterprise Institute.
Chickens would be "a detail in the very end stage of one sector of a potential free-trade agreement", he added.
In response, campaign group Open Britain challenged Fox to eat a US chicken. He didn’t answer the call, but the debate is not expected to end there.
"The row over chlorinated chicken is set to intensify with a warning that cheap imported food could threaten farm animal welfare standards after Brexit," Sky News says.
Fox's trip, which is aimed at setting the stage for trade talks, has driven home to many in the UK that the country may have to compromise on food to secure a bilateral trade deal in the US.
Concerns about EU and US standards "were among issues that resulted in the two sides failing to agree a comprehensive trade and investment partnership last year", the BBC says.
US farmers wash their chickens in chlorine to kill salmonella and other bacteria. Under EU rules, such poultry is banned from imports.
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