I know that many of you have raised concerns about recent media reports that UK food standards will be lowered as part of future trade deals.
I agree with my constituents and British consumers who want high welfare produce and agree that if our trading partners want to break into the UK market, they should expect to meet those standards. The Manifesto I stood on was clear that in all trade negotiations, our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards will not be compromised. The Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers.
I am pleased that all food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements. The EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book. These import standards include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products and set out that no products, other than potable water, are approved to decontaminate poultry carcasses. Any changes to existing food safety legislation would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament to be scrutinised in full by MPs.
The UK’s food standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland. These agencies will take over from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) at the end of our transition period.
These are independent agencies which provide advice to the UK and Scottish governments. In a recent letter, they have assured me that they will continue to fulfil their statutory duties by putting the interests of the consumer first and by ensuring their guidance on food standards is supported by rigorous systems and processes. As an independent body, their work is based purely on science and evidence, and not on wider political or other pressures. They will continue to work hard in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards and protect public health and consumers’ wider interests.
Finally, I’m pleased that the Government are already engaging with the agricultural sector as part of its trade discussions, including the National Farmers Union. It is encouraging that Ministers share my determination to ensure our future trade agreements will deliver benefits for our brilliant farmers and food producers.
Thank you to those who raised their concerns with me and I hope that the above has offered some reassurance.