There has been something of a brouhaha in the British media recently over the prospect of chlorinated chicken being imported into the UK from the USA under the terms of a putative post-Brexit trade deal between the two countries.
Beyond that particularly unsavoury prospect there are plenty of other reasons to be alarmed about the potential impact on British food standards of a UK-USA trade deal.
For example, farmers in the USA currently use 82 different pesticides that are banned in the UK, including neonicotinoid pesticides, banned across the European Union (EU) because of suspected harm to bees, but still widely applied by US farmers.
In addition, the USA not only allows the widespread growing of genetically modified crops (GMOs), it does not even require food labels to state whether a food product contains GMOs. In fact, US labelling laws do not require consumers to be told about a whole range of additives that might be in their food.
As a member state of the European Union (EU), the UK has been a signatory to EU food regulations which have delivered more humane standards of animal welfare, including for example the elimination of the use of battery cages for laying hens. In the USA around 95% of eggs are still produced using battery cages.
The list goes on and on. US farmers are permitted to add fast growth hormones and antibiotics in animal feed that are outlawed in the UK. Food additives that are banned in the UK and the rest of the EU, such as azodicarbonamide and potassium bromate are permitted in the USA.
The Chief Economist of the USA’s Farm Bureau Federation, Bob Young, has said publicly, in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier this year, that any US-UK trade deal would require the UK accepting previously banned US food imports, including unlabelled genetically modified foods (GMOs), chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef (in the interview Mr Young even claimed these food products were “proven to be safe”).
If the UK government was to agree to this precondition for a trade agreement with the USA, it would mean much lower food standards for UK consumers. It would also, no doubt, reduce our standing with nations who have high standards of food safety, and may well undermine future British food exports to those other nations.
The row over chlorinated chicken is simply the tip of a deeply unappetising iceberg. Rushing headlong into a trade agreement with the USA would be putting at risk decades of legislative progress designed to protect consumers from poor quality food and to inform us about what is in the food we eat.
On to the recipe.
Tests in the USA regularly show high levels of pesticide residue in blueberries for sale to the public. At least that’s one low standard that is already shared by the UK, whose Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food, which advises the UK government on pesticides monitoring, places blueberries high on the list of foods containing pesticide traces.
All the more reason to buy and eat organic.
I have grown blueberries organically for several years without any problem. They may be fussy, for example liking only ericaceous soil and requiring a different blueberry species in order to cross-pollinate, but I have not known them to be susceptible to pests.
This easy recipe uses organic blueberries in a light and delicious, quick and easy dessert.
Dairy-free coconut yoghurt is available in most health food stores and in some supermarkets. If you cannot source it, use an alternative vegan yogurt.
vegan blueberry fool
250 g fresh organic blueberries
350 g dairy-free coconut yoghurt
30 ml organic maple syrup
1. Place the blueberries in a saucepan with the maple syrup and 20 ml fresh water. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely, by which time it will have an almost jam-like consistency.
2. Place the coconut yoghurt in a bowl and gently fold in three quarters of the blueberry mixture. Divide the rest of the cooked blueberries between four bowls or glasses and top with the fool. Keep chilled until ready to serve.