Lawmakers hope the USTR will persuade the UK to add the controversial issue of poultry to trade talks.

U.S. lawmakers including four members of Georgia’s congressional delegation are seeking assurances that market access for American poultry will be on the table in any discussions of a trade deal with the United Kingdom

American-made chicken and turkey have been practically banned from the European Union since 1997 over testing procedures and antimicrobial washes used in sterilization. So-called “Chlorinated chicken” and hormone-treated beef from the U.S. have long been hot-button issues all across Europe.

The U.K. has been obliged to adhere to those rules as an EU member, but U.S. lawmakers see an opening in Brexit, which entered a transition phase when the U.K. left the union officially Jan. 31.

“We are in a position to renegotiate this unscientific ban once and for all,” the members of the House of Representatives, mostly from Southern states, wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. 

American policy makers and industry groups have long argued that U.S. production methods and testing standards are safe and that Europe has used the chlorine wash as a protectionist trade barrier by fanning consumer fears.  

The letter notes that all rinses are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also inspects all U.S.-made poultry. 

“Additionally, only an estimated 10 percent of the processing plant sin the U.S. use chlorine throughout production,” the letter reads. “Scientific research, including that of the European Food Safety Authority, confirms using chlorine-washed poultry does not pose any human health concerns, nor is it present in the final product.” 

The issue could prove an obstruction to talks that leaders from both sides have characterized as an easy win, given the countries’ “special relationship.”  

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has pledged to hold firm on food safety; indeed, the U.K.’s announcement of negotiating objectives for the proposed deal “set out that any future agreement must protect our National Health System and uphold our high standards on food safety and animal welfare.” 

At an event focused on trade in Atlanta Thursday, British Consul General Andrew Staunton made clear during a public comment that negotiations could start off on the wrong foot if the U.S. side comes in with the assumption that the U.K. will easily bend on hard-won regulations just because it’s out of the EU. 

The U.S. sees the U.K. deal as yet another opportunity to expand market access for poultry, which has recently seen new market openings in Japan and China as a result of trade negotiations with those countries.

Those wins come after agricultural producers were asked to bear the burden of retaliatory tariffs in the trade war with China, prompting the USDA to issue $28 billion in assistance to farmers as their exports plummeted.   

“Lifting this ban will set the stage for future agreements, such as with the EU, and reinforce the Administration’s stance that U.S. farmers and ranchers are an integral part of the American economy that should not be left behind,” reads the letter. 

Members of Congress from Georgia who signed the letter include: 

  • David Scott, a Democrat from the 13th District, which encompasses some of Atlanta’s southern suburbs 
  • Austin Scott, a Republican from the 8th District that runs from Macon southward 
  • Doug Collins, a Republican from the 11th District centered around Gainesville, one of the world’s poultry capitals 
  • Rob Woodall, a Republican of Georgia’s 7th District in the northern suburbs of Atlanta 

See the letter below:

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...