Liam Fox refuses to say whether he would eat a chlorine-soaked chicken
Liam Fox today refused to say whether he would eat a chlorine-soaked chicken as he blasted the press for its “obsession” over the issue.
The International Trade Secretary dodged the question after reports he wants the UK to lift the ban – currently imposed by the EU – on importing chemically-washed poultry after Brexit.
But he was mocked by the anti-Brexit campaign group Open Britain, which demanded he "devour" one of the birds live on air to prove he is not “just chicken”.
The question of food hygiene standards has come to the fore after claims that the UK could be forced to accept imports of US poultry washed in the chemical.
The practice is banned under EU regulations, but Downing St has not ruled out changing the standards once the UK has left the bloc.
At an event in Washington today Dr Fox gave short shrift to a reporter asking whether he would personally be prepared to eat chicken that had been treated with chlorine.
He said he was deep in a wider debate about the “increased prosperity of the UK” and talks with the US about a free trade agreement.
But, he added: “The British media are obsessed with chlorine-washed chickens, a detail of the very end stage of one sector of a potential free trade agreement.”
And he joked: "We work on the assumption that all Washington bureau UK journalists never eat chicken or beef through fears for their health.”
Open Britain boss James McGrory said: "If the International Trade Secretary wants the public to trust him, he needs to take the opportunity while he's in the US and devour a chlorine-washed chicken live on camera.
"The choice of recipe is up to him, but one serving suggestion might be Chlorination Chicken.
"The proof of the chicken is in the eating and if Dr Fox thinks it's safe, he should put his money where his mouth is. If he doesn't, he is just chicken."
At a media briefing this morning, Theresa May’s spokesman would not categorically rule out a change.
"Our position when it comes to food is that maintaining safety and public confidence in the food we eat is the highest priority and any future trade deal must work for UK farmers, businesses and consumers," he said.
Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner hit out at his opposite number, saying:
“This just goes to show that you should never trust a Fox in your hen coop. We are proud of the product standards and regulations we have developed in the UK.
"Our health and safety and animal welfare standards are among the highest in the world. By arguing the case for chlorine-washed chicken, Liam Fox shows he is ready to abandon British poultry farmers in favour of cheap US imports that do not meet our sanitary or animal welfare standards."