Chlorinated Chicken: An Omen for Brexit?

A Healthy Organic Chicken

I’m angry and I’m wading into the deep-end of this ‘chlorinated chicken’ business with a passion!

Let me begin by saying this…

Any ‘expert’ and any lobby-led politician (Brexiteer or not) who explicitly (or tacitly) condones the practice of raising cheap chicken by defending claims that chlorinated chicken (i.e. bleached meat) is a harmless solution to the wretched, intensive, methods of farming that produce cheap, unhealthy food – is a fool.  And an arrogant fool to boot.

But we consumers know this, don’t we?  We know that raising chickens (any animal) in such wretched, abysmal conditions that their gift to us needs disinfecting with chlorine bleach, is NOT for chickens.  And boy, chlorinated chicken is NOT for us!

[Image credit Huffington Post:  A healthy, organic chicken]

I’ve dedicated my book The Real Food Solution to helping people understand why the food we’re eating now is making us sick; why we should care where our food comes from; and how to make better, healthier and sustainable food choices for ourselves, for our families and for this planet.

And one such better food choice would be to say a very loud and clear “NO THANK YOU” to cheap, unhealthy and chlorinated chicken sources.  A better food choice is to choose organic, truly free-range (and where possible, pastured-raised). We might need to pay a little more. – but if the bird has been pasture-fed, we won’t need to eat as much to get the same nutritional bang for our hard-earned £bucks.

So, with this in mind, here’s my response to those foolish ‘experts’ and politicians who, by choosing to remain ignorant (or unwilling to raise their heads above the parapet) are failing unforgivably to exercise their duty-of-care for our health…

All health on this planet (animal, vegetable or mineral) is rooted in two simple, ancient wisdoms:

“We are what we eat” and “We are what we eat, eats

Every generation, in every culture throughout history, has understood and honoured this wisdom.  But we, in our modern, industrial, technological and corporate arrogance, have cast aside millennia of food wisdom in pursuit of progress, convenience and satisfying the agriculture and food industry’s insatiable bottom-line.  Result?  A race to the bottom: heap food and chlorinated chicken – how sad?

For anyone who’s been holed-up in a cave…

I won’t try to rehash the plethora of ‘chlorinated chicken’ articles and sound-bites that appear daily in the media. For anyone who’s been busy elsewhere over last week or so, I’ve curated below (with my emphasis) a taste of what has put the media, consumers, myself and even the UK Cabinet in a frenzy.  For a deep-dive into the detail, I encourage you to follow up the links to the articles and the links within them… you’ll be glad you did!

Just what is actually at stake here?

At this point, I’ll just ask you to note that the focus of the commentators below is primarily (and understandably) on issues of food safety and security in relation to chlorinated chicken.  However, the one critical issue of equal import seems not to have a voice in this debate:

Whether and how meat (indeed, any food) that has been farmed or grown in intensive, impoverished, un-natural, nutrient-poor and chemically adulterated conditions, can satisfy our nutritional requirements and how this impacts our nutritional status and ultimately our health – and our need for healthcare.

I’ve raised many of these issues within the pages of The Real Food Solution –  nutritional value, food safety, the impact of conventional and chemical farming practices and need for regenerative agriculture, in what I hope you’ll find to be accessible, informative and inspirational reading.


From: JustFood.Com, 24 July 1017

“The European Union has banned the chicken, amid criticism [that] the US uses the process to hide poor hygiene on farms and abattoirs.

There is reported disagreement in the UK government over the prospect of imports of “chlorine-washed” chicken from the US entering the country under a post-Brexit trade deal between London and Washington. UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox is said to be ready to allow in the shipments. “The British media are obsessed with chlorine-washed chicken,” Fox said in an interview in Washington D.C.

 However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove is said to not to want UK food standards to be downgraded.

 Other related concerns include the prospect of the UK allowing imports of hormone-fed beef and genetically modified crops, which are permitted in the US.

 Meanwhile, the American Farming Association has made it clear that a free trade deal with the UK must include agriculture, and that exports of chlorine-soaked chicken, hormone-fed beef and GMO crops would need to be approved.”

From: The Independent, 26 July 2017

 “Treating chickens with chlorine epitomises the difference in approaches to food safety and animal welfare in the US and the UK at present. The UK, along with the rest of the EU, takes a “farm to fork” approach trying to eliminate bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter at every stage in the chain. The US by contrast tolerates dirty meat until the very end, when it bleaches everything in the chlorine wash.

The UK approach is better for the birds, who are more likely to have healthy lives, as well as for people, because there are fewer chances for bacteria to be spread to humans.

 These practices are part of a highly industrialised farming system, with animals kept in intensive mega-farms, a model of farming that is dependent on fossil fuel, contributes to climate change and degrades our soil.

 There is a choice here, represented by chlorine chicken, beef treated with growth, and pork laced with ractompamine – all of which have risks for human health and animal welfare. As a House of Lords report puts it “the Government may find it hard to reconcile its free trade ambitions with its commendable desire for preserving high farm animal welfare standards.”

 From: The Soil Association, 26 July 2016

 “As the EU itself states, “if food is to be safe, the animals it comes from must be healthy”.

 In the EU, food safety is delivered with a focus on traceability and rigorous standards and hygiene monitoring at all stages of the food chain. In contrast,  American farming – specifically meat production – relies on ‘end of pipe’ treatments, whereby food safety is guaranteed by dipping or spraying meat carcasses with chemical washes to minimize human health risks resulting from potentially inadequate hygiene and safety processes on farms and abattoirs.

The EU’s farm to fork approach does more than simply remove the need for meat to be chemically disinfected – it also helps to ensure that the health and welfare of animals is a priority.

 The public, as is always the case when it comes to food, wield considerable influence. The simple fact that something – whether chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-fed beef – is allowed to be imported, doesn’t necessarily mean that supermarkets will choose to stock it on their shelves. In short, retailers will only sell what people are willing to buy.

 A survey for the RSPCA found that over 80% of the British public support maintaining or enhancing farm animal welfare after Brexit – this may be an opportunity for us, as consumers, to put our money where our mouth is.

TTIP – Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership

But however enraged we may be at the prospect of chlorine-washed, hormonally-fed, genetically modified food on UK tables, we MUST be aware that the issues that underlie (and have sparked the ‘chlorinated chicken’ debate) go FAR beyond the prospect of ushering in abysmal and unacceptable farm animal welfare standards.

The underlying issue goes to the heart – and beyond – of our self-determination to choose a sustainable, healthy food system for ourselves, our children and theirs.

As the UK makes progress towards leaving the EU, the once languishing TTIP and its even more sinister progeny is rising from the ashes of rejection and is a real and present danger, not only to the integrity and safety of our food in the UK, but to the future of our public services, our healthcare system, our banking and finance system.  It extends right to the heart of our democratic way of life to allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits, meaning unelected, transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.

It’s a deal that (whichever way you cut it) the EU rejected:

 (Liam) Fox’s meeting seeks to lay the groundwork for a future trade deal with the US, and we have a good idea of what it may look like – TTIP on steroids. Fox has been meeting with a huge number of corporate lobbyists in the past few months, and some of the most powerful groups have been pushing for exactly that – a deal that starts where the controversial EU-USA deal broke off, and goes further in its approach to deregulation.

The ‘Seventh Generation’ Principle

Have we, as intelligent and responsible custodians of our children’s futures considered this bigger picture? Ironically, a profound lesson can be drawn from the teachings and ancient wisdom of a people native to the very a country which has long-abandoned all responsibility for future generations.

The Native American Indians teach a ‘Seventh Generation Principle’, based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy:

In every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, each generation must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future.

With our awareness raised, the prospect of chlorinated chicken on our table and the broader threats posed by TTIP- like trade agreements in mind, we in the UK must put this ancient concern firmly at the heart of our decisions about the food we raise, grow and eat and that which we allow others to put on our tables.

Undoubtedly, there will be much more said and refuted about this whole issue, but the ultimate outcome of this ‘chlorinated chicken’ debate will determine the future of our health, of our children’s health and of their children’s too. It cannot be too soon to take responsibility and to get informed about the content and impact of any trade deals with the US – or for that matter, with any other country.

I’d like to leave you with some clear and simple thoughts…

Farming, surely, is not a mere ‘for-profit’ end in itself…

where we bend, distort, adulterate, weaken, corrupt, contaminate and distort, in short bastardise, Nature to produce a ‘food product’ that achieves the best margin but damns the consequences?  Farmers must reconnect with the true purpose of their endeavour and consumers must recognise the value of the hands that feed us.

Farmers are undervalued, underpaid and exploited…

by a powerful, global agricultural and food industry. This must and WILL change as more and more farmers are impelled (by their own economic survival) to reclaim their traditional skills, restore regenerative farming practises, and trade directly with consumers. We consumers must learn how to support them and pay real farmers their worth.

Isn’t the whole point of the farming endeavour…

to raise and grow healthy, nutrient-dense food intelligently and sustainably, with genuine compassionate for animals and respect for the soil and this planet?  Surely, as consumers, to do otherwise would be to continue on blindly down a road to… nowhere?

We, as intelligent, responsible and informed citizens must learn to care about our health and learn where the food that supports our health comes from.

We must find the vision and the courage to let the scales fall from our eyes and learn to look beyond ourselves.

Together, we must let our voices, in defense of our health and that of the animals and planet that support us, be heard, loud and clear.

Well now that I’ve got that off my chest, it’s over to you guys – let’s see the prospect of chlorinated chicken and other nonsense firmly dispatched!

Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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