BREXIT: Appalling US food standards will add £1billion to NHS to combat serious food poisoning
Brexit Trade Secretary Liam Fox is negotiating trade deals cloaked in secrecy. TPP was a massive, controversial, pro-corporate “free trade” agreement among the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. It caused considerable concern and protest from citizens. In Japan, TPP was delayed because it threatened to destabilise the government and cause an upset in elections.
The problem for the people who have to suffer these trade deals is that standards have to fall to a common denominator to allow all to trade freely and food standards is a good example to highlight what is coming to Britain if Liam Fox has anythihg to do with it.
A US-UK trade deal which will inevitably increase imports of American food could see the NHS forced to find huge sums additional money dealing with food poisoning, according to farming alliance Sustain.
Reported in the Farmers Guardian was that Sustain had examined the food safety records of the USA and found substantially higher rates of sickness and death from foodborne illnesses than those in the UK (see figures below).
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Using Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates of the current costs of campylobacter infections, Sustain estimated the UK economy would face a bill of at least £1 billion if US patterns of food poisoning occurred in the UK.
Costs to the NHS and lost earnings make up this figure, but the total could be several billion pounds more if other expenses such as additional hygiene inspections to check higher volumes of imported food were included.
The estimate also excludes costs to industry from increased food poisoning, such as recalls, loss of reputation and compensation claims.
Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, said:
“Our analysis shows if we accept imported meat without robust standards, we may also import increased food poisoning and possibly even deaths. The US is demanding we drop our food standards for trade, but our research shows cheap US meat will come at a cost to our health and economy.”
Dalmeny continued to say that the “new UK trade deals must support hygienic farming methods and good animal welfare. It is absolutely unacceptable that trade decisions will be made behind closed doors by Trade Secretary Liam Fox and trade negotiators, without consulting the public, food safety scientists and parliament.”
“We need to know for sure that Dr Fox’s team are not trading away our safety. There needs to be proper public and scientific scrutiny of all negotiations which affect what we eat.”
By importing American food standards, on current US levels, it would increase food poisoning in the UK 10 times from 975,000 cases a year to 9.5 million.
Here are the facts
- 14.7 per cent of the US population suffers from a foodborne illness every year, compared to 1.5 per cent in the UK. This is almost 10 times the percentage of the population.
- 3,000 people a year die in America from foodborne illness, compared to just 500 in the UK. The US population is about five times the size of the UK.
- About 380 of those annual deaths in America are attributed to salmonella poisoning, but in England and Wales, no deaths were recorded from salmonella between 2005 and 2015.
- Campylobacter, a pathogen found mainly in chicken, has an infection rate of 6,289 per 100k of population in the US, with the frequency of outbreak on the rise. In England and Wales, the rate was just 96.22 per 100k population.
- An average of 1,591 cases of listeriosis, usually caught from eating soft cheeses, unpasteurised milk and chilled ready-to-eat foods such as pate, are reported in the US every year. In England and Wales, the average is just 177.
But there’s worse when you know just how low food standards are in the USA. CBS news in the USA recently published what the American government allows as acceptable food standards. Here are just a dozen examples for your gastronomic knowledge at future dinner parties:
- Maggots: Canned mushrooms are a good place to find maggots. If there are “over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms” or “five or more maggots two millimetres or longer per 100 grams,” the Food and Drug Administration or FDA will pay attention. Otherwise, eat up.
- Rat Fur: Is there mouse fur in your peanut butter? Insect parts? Could be. The FDA says peanut butter can have no more than an average of one rodent hair per 100 grams.
- Parasites: Meet copepodkils. The FDA says it’s okay for fish to contain parasitic cysts like this one – up to a limit. In the case of freshwater herring, the limit is 60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish. Yum.
- Mould: What says wholesome goodness like apple pie, apple sauce and apple butter? But apples get mouldy, and the FDA will have something to say to the producer if the “average of mould count is 12 per cent or more.” Wholesome, indeed.
- Cigarette Butts: The FDA says food products can contain a certain amount of “foreign matter,” a term that includes cigarette butts for that special smoky flavour.
- Animal Faeces: What could smell more heavenly than cinnamon bark, bay leaves and cocoa beans? The fact that the FDA allows a smidge of “mammalian excreta” to end up in the mix doesn’t seem to affect the aroma at all. Does it?
- Insect Faeces: Bugs love spices. They feed on spices, poop in spices – and even leave their body parts behind after they die. The FDA allows up to 325 insect fragments per 10 grams of ground thyme, to take one example. So spice up that dish and enjoy.
- Fruit Flies and Their Maggots: Fruit flies love tomato sauce so much they lay their eggs in it. But the FDA has its limits, allowing no more than 15 or more fruit fly eggs and one or more maggots per 100 grams of sauce.
- Sand and grit: You can buy smooth or chunky peanut butter, but maybe food producers should offer “gritty” peanut butter too. The FDA allows up to 25mg of grit per 100 grams of that yummy sandwich spread.