Fear of BSE keeps EU food standards high


The Cattle Site 

13 February 2020


Memories of the 1990s mad cow disease crisis means the EU will likely reject US demands for relaxing strict food safety rules, even with President Trump threatening tariffs on cars if EU countries don't begin imports of more US farm products.


According to reporting from Reuters, the US is increasing pressure on the EU to relax its food safety standards in order to ramp up US farm imports. Since European food and farming exports to the US are higher than imports, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to the EU it should adapt its food regulations to reflect "sound science" instead of the "precautionary principle".  


However, Brussels is unlikely to agree.


Europeans who remember BSE, nicknamed mad cow disease, will not accept any lowering of food standards and no politician could support a trade deal perceived as doing so, said Johan Bjerkem, trade specialist at the European Policy Centre.


"On top of that, you're negotiating with Trump, for whom not many Europeans have great sympathy," he said. "Combine these things and it will be very difficult to accept a deal on those issues."


Trump, who has long complained that the EU's position on trade is "worse than China," said on Monday he was training his sights on Europe, raising the prospect of a new trade war.


The EU bans imports of meat treated with growth hormones or poultry washed with peracetic acid, often dubbed "chlorinated chicken". Both are standard US farming practices.


Washington points to inconsistencies -- EU salad leaves are regularly washed with chlorine -- and says EU rules are a smokescreen for protectionism as the rules undoubtedly benefit EU farmers.


Brussels' response is that antimicrobial poultry washes mask otherwise far less strict and hygienic standards.


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that the various washes are not a safety concern, but do not replace the need for good hygienic practices during processing of poultry carcasses.


The agency's study of hormone-treated meat similarly does not conclude that it is unsafe, but says there is insufficient data to prove it is safe.


Cautious EU approach ...


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