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Mon Jun 3, 2019, 05:19 PM

Brexit and chlorinated chicken

UK’s channel 4 has a special about possible food standards changes in post-Brexit trading deals with the United States highlighting the possibility of the United States being able to sell chlorinated chicken in the UK.

Important to note is that the issue is about the underlying reason for why the United States chlorinated the chicken. Yes, it’s done for food safety, but the reason it’s become standard practice here is to allow shoddy practices in raising and processing chicken, processes then mitigated by disinfecting it afterwards.

This reminds me of when I’d visited France quite awhile back and after returning home was craving some cidre. At the time I couldn’t find any local made and was curious as to why, especially since Washington State is noted for apple production. One factor was the lack of the bitter sweet apples used. But in researching I found that another was the specific requirements for pasteurization, requirements made necessary due to the allowance for “drops” or fallen apples (which are more likely to be contaminated). In contrast, French standards don’t allow for using apples that have hit the ground.


Chlorinated chicken is an emotive subject, and a slightly misleading one: as disgusting as it sounds, the chlorine itself is not the problem. American chicken doesn’t taste like a swimming pool. Most of it tastes a bit like chicken.

The problem is that the practice of chlorine washing (though sometimes other chemicals are used) is said to be a poor substitute for the hygiene measures that should take place earlier in the processing chain, but, in the US, are not legally required. For this reason, chlorinated chicken has been banned from the EU for 22 years. If and when Brexit happens, the UK may well be obliged to accept chlorinated poultry as part of any separate trade deal with the US. Agricultural exports are a priority for US negotiators – it would be difficult to make an exception for chicken.

EU rules put limits on flock densities and transport times, with a view to preventing the spread of salmonella and campylobacter, both of which can cause food poisoning and possible death. In the absence of such regulations, American poultry processors address hygiene concerns at the end of the process by rinsing all the chicken in chlorine before packing. This kills 90% of the harmful bacteria present in the poultry – the question is whether that is enough. It sounds to me as if it isn’t.

Indeed, chlorine washing may prevent the detection of contaminants through ordinary testing, because it partially masks the problem. Quilton had no trouble finding a Texas restaurant owner who will swear there is nothing wrong with American chicken – “Not a thing. Superior quality and flavour”. But the numbers speak for themselves: US rates of campylobacter infection are 10 times higher than in the UK. The US records hundreds of salmonella deaths a year; the UK has in recent years recorded none.

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Reply Brexit and chlorinated chicken (Original post)
suffragette Jun 2019 OP
RedParrot Jun 2019 #1
suffragette Jun 2019 #2
CurtEastPoint Jun 2019 #3
suffragette Jun 2019 #4

Response to suffragette (Original post)

Mon Jun 3, 2019, 05:22 PM

1. Why are we eating chlorinated chicken?


Why are Americans consuming food tainted with chemicals and hormones? Why can’t we have the same food safety standards as the EU?

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Response to RedParrot (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 3, 2019, 05:29 PM

2. $$$ Cheaper to allow less rigorous raising and handling, then douse it afterwards, then to

require better practices throughout the process.

Similar issue to the recurring problems with romaine lettuce.

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Response to suffragette (Original post)

Mon Jun 3, 2019, 05:30 PM

3. Food (incl. chicken) in France is much better than here.

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Response to CurtEastPoint (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 3, 2019, 06:04 PM

4. Amazing how much flavor with better practices. Some foods here are on par, especially local

foods prepared traditionally, such as PNW alder smoked wild salmon. The farm raised stuff is sub-par in every way, from the grey flesh to the negative environmental impact.

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