Three-quarters of the public oppose the sale of chlorinated chicken in Britain, a major Government-backed study said yesterday.
And nearly nine out of ten are against any new food trade deal that allows hormone-treated beef.
The country’s deep reluctance to accept meat they believe is produced to worrying standards was confirmed by one of the most respected political opinion tests – the British Social Attitudes Survey.
The findings, which show widespread alarm at the possibility of declining safety in the meat processing industry, were released ahead of next Monday’s Commons reading of the Agriculture Bill – which has no safeguards against the import of meat from America produced using controversial methods.
The survey – which has been conducted annually since the early 1980s and is funded by the Government’s Economic and Social Research Council – found 48 per cent believe Britain should definitely not allow chlorinated chicken and 75 per cent thought it should probably be banned.
The verdict against selling beef from cattle fattened with hormones was even more overwhelming.
More than six out of ten – 61 per cent – said hormone-treated beef should definitely be barred and 88 per cent said it should probably be kept out.
Opening the British market to American meat farmers and their methods will likely form a centrepiece of negotiations as the Government tries to bag a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss said that British rules against chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef, long established under the EU’s agriculture regime, will not be abandoned in search of a trade deal.
But concern has grown since farming minister Victoria Prentis told Tory MPs that the Government will not accept amendments to enforce existing standards in Monday’s Commons voting.
The British Social Attitudes report said its research ‘suggests that people in Britain would be reluctant to see the UK swap the EU’s stance for that of the USA’.
The survey also found that 59 per cent opposed genetically-modified crops, which are common in the US.
And nearly two-thirds of the 2,411 interviewed are in favour of continued regular subsidies to farmers once Britain leaves the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which subsidises European farmers and imposes tariffs on food imports from outside the EU.
Professor John Curtice, a researcher for the National Centre for Social Research which runs the survey, said: ‘There does not appear to be a widespread public clamour for a less strict regulatory regime than the one Britain enjoyed as an EU member.’
SIMON WALTERS: Why Boris Johnson and Co must now listen to Jamie Oliver
By SIMON WALTERS for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson and Jamie Oliver have rarely seen eye to eye when it comes to food. Back in 2006, the future prime minister denounced the TV chef’s celebrated campaign to improve school meals.
A libertarian at heart, Boris loudly backed the mothers who, disgusted by Jamie’s healthier school dinners, passed junk food to their children through the school railings.
‘I say let people eat what they like,’ Boris wrote, adding that if ever he was in charge, he would ‘get rid of Jamie Oliver’.
Well, now he is in charge – and it is Jamie hurling brickbats at Boris and his Cabinet.
The chef has been issuing stern warnings that the Government – desperate to secure international trade deals after Brexit – will let cheap, unhealthy food such as chlorinated chicken swamp the UK after striking agreements with countries such as America.
Jamie even compared International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to Britain’s most famous TV wheeler-dealer.
‘As much as I love ‘Only Fools And Horses’, I don’t want a ministerial version of Del Boy selling us short,’ he stated.
Next Monday, the Government’s now-notorious Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons.
The House of Lords recently amended this legislation to include a requirement that food imported under future trade deals must meet or exceed British domestic standards.
Such a move is backed by Oliver, the farming lobby, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, rebel Conservative peers and environmental campaigners.
But Boris and Miss Truss are refusing to give in. They insist existing laws are strong enough and that Jamie’s campaign would tie the hands of negotiators in trade talks with Australia and the US.
Boris’s chief No 10 adviser, Dominic Cummings, who is driving the Government’s Brexit strategy, has said the revolt must be crushed.
Famously, Boris is the first to admit that his nasty brush with the coronavirus earlier this year was made worse because, as he put it, ‘I was too fat’.
When Jamie managed to get ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ – spiral strips of processed meat ‘nuggets’ made by food giant Bernard Matthews – banned from schools in 2005, Boris responded in characteristic style.
He ordered an assistant to go out and buy ‘as many slices of Bernard Matthews as you can find’. He then wrote gleefully: ‘We had delicious golden turkey escalopes, containing as much as 38 per cent turkey.’
Now he boasts proudly that he has lost 26lbs in a post-Covid diet – he has again been spotted this week jogging with his personal trainer.
How ironic that, at the same time, Boris is pushing through a law that many believe would weaken food standards and risk flooding British shops, restaurants and takeaways with unhealthier food.
Weighed down by the harsh reality of governing, Johnson has ditched many of the populist views he espoused as a columnist.
He even has the chutzpah to mock himself for them.
Announcing a major new investment in wind farms this week, he poked fun at those who had said the turbines couldn’t ‘take the skin off a rice pudding’. He was quoting himself – in comments he made in 2013.
I suggest now is the perfect time for Mr Johnson to disown all those who have lampooned the reforms that have transformed food quality in this country in recent years, including promoting organic produce, reducing sugar content and insisting on clearer labelling.
It’s all very well to say blithely that safeguards should be scrapped so people can ‘eat what they like’ – but Boris himself knows all too well that letting people eat whatever they like can come at its own cost.
Opinion polls, meanwhile, show the public back Jamie, not Boris, on chlorinated chicken. Instead of ‘getting rid’ of Jamie, now the Prime Minister needs to get rid of his outmoded views on food standards – and listen to the TV chef.