Barry Turner: A game of chicken

Michael Gove tells us we won’t have it, Liam Fox says the press are obsessed by it. Not since presidential candidate Herbert Hoover promised a one in every pot, during his election campaign in 1928, has this staple of the dinner table been such a hot political issue.

The Brexit negotiations now, if you believe our media, is all about chicken. Chicken of the chlorine washed variety that is. There has been much recent clucking about the significance of Dr Fox’s discussions in the US about post Brexit trade and this has raised the rather different views on food safety adopted by the Europeans and the Americans.

What is the problem? Well the Americans want full access to the British market for their hormone enhanced meat and chlorine washed chickens, something that may not go down too well with consumers used to higher standards of food quality. Put bluntly, British consumers will not swallow this.

We are assured by those with a vested interest in assuring us that hormones in beef and chlorine on chicken are safe and our medically qualified trade secretary, while being a little non-committal, seems to agree. There is of course significant evidence that both are at least just a little suspect.

In December 2000 five people were jailed for a multi-million pound food scam in which chicken deemed fit only for pet food was re-introduced into that suitable for humans. Part of the scam involved using bleach to ‘refresh’ tainted and yellowing chicken meat so it could be sold to restaurants and pre-packed food distributors. The bleach did a wonderful job of making dull, yellow and contaminated chicken look fresh killed but did nothing about the infectious bacteria under the surface.

Its not the chlorine we need to be afraid of it’s what it has hidden by its use.

Hormones in red meat are used along with the profligate use of antibiotics to increase the profitability of the meat industry. Again we are assured that this is quite harmless to individuals eating it. We do not have time to do the science here today but a quick Google search on what hormones are actually for might give us some clues why we should not be so sure about the harmlessness of it all.

Dr Fox seems satisfied that the food is safe, Mr Gove says we won’t be having it. Who is right? I guess we will have to see who is higher in the pecking order right after Brexit in 2019.