The dangers of international trade food standards

Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is one of the huge benefits of an organic gardener's diet. Plus you know you're not eating unnecessary and potentially toxic chemicals.
Vegetables grown at Ryton gardens
This principle is often followed through when buying meat and other products.
But what if you don't eat organic - especially if the food is imported? Recently, the Soil Association has revealed the differences between EU and US legislation concerning livestock farming – profligate use of antibiotics, growth hormones and the celebrated ‘chlorinated’ chicken...
“UK public health and wildlife could be negatively affected if our food and farming standards are sacrificed in pursuit of a US trade deal,” said Rob Percival, the Soil Association’s Head of Policy. “UK farmers have been making positive strides in recent years, reducing farm antibiotic use and these efforts risk being undermined by a trade deal that floods the UK market with US meat.”
Food practices listed by the Soil Association include:

Chlorinated chicken
In the US, farmers are allowed to use chlorine washes and other disinfectants to remove harmful bacteria that may have infected the birds during rearing and slaughter. But a team of microbiologists from Southampton University found last year that some bacteria remained completely active after chlorine washing. The EU banned the practice 22 years ago, amid concerns that chlorine may compensate or mask poorer hygiene and animal welfare standards in the chicken shed.

The use of antibiotics per animal in US farming is on average five times higher than in the UK, according to a Soil Association report. Antibiotic resistance is one of the gravest public health threats facing the world. Data from a US investigation showed that 13 separate antibiotics classed by the World Health Organization as “critically important” to human medicine were still being used in meat supply chains - thereby reducing their effectiveness in the fight to contain human disease.

Hormone-fed beef
Cattle producers in the US and other countries use hormones to induce faster, bigger animal growth but they have been banned in the EU since 1989. Ractopamine, for example, is a growth hormone used to promote leanness in animals by shifting nutrients into muscle and away from fat deposition. It is administered in the days leading up to slaughter. In swine, the drug is linked to several adverse effects including hyperactivity, broken limbs and trembling. It is banned by the EU, mainland China, Russia and almost 160 other countries but not in the US, Japan or South Korea.

Food colouring
The UK banned certain food dyes following a 2007 double-blind study that found eating artificially coloured food increased children’s hyperactivity. In the US, however, products that include Yellow 5 and 6, Red 3 and 40, Blue 1 and 2, Green 3 and Orange B are available for purchase and do not require labelling.
The benefits of an organic diet
Eating organic food goes beyond cutting out the toxic chemicals. Organic meat that has more omega 3 and grains have 60% higher oxidants, plus there is the reduced risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. For further information on the benefits of an organic diet see here.
Recent research has also shown that an organic diet reduces the amounts of pesticide residues in the body.
As Abu Dhabi plans to develop 100 new organic farms in the next few years, perhaps governments should learn from one of the UAE's founding fathers, Sheikh Zayed, who said: “Give me agriculture and I will give you civilization”.