Chlorinated chicken, hormone-based meats and new GMOs. These are the objectives of US food exports to Europe, to restore balance in the trade balance between the two sides of the Atlantic. Everything is fine? An understatement.
TTIP and the precautionary principle
The US Secretary in Agriculture, Sonny Perdue is currently on a European mission. He must facilitate the TTIP negotiations, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and eliminate their main 'obstacle' from Washington's perspective. The so-called precautionary principle, on which EU policy and legislation is still based. (1)
'Union policy in environmental matters, it contributes to pursuing the following objectives:
- safeguarding, protecting and improving the quality of the environment,
- protection of human health,
- prudent and rational use of natural resources,
- international promotion of measures aimed at solving environmental problems at regional or global level and, in particular, at combating climate change'(TFEU, Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union, article 191.1).
Primary goal of European policy and legislation and of the Member States - in the agricultural, food and environmental sectors, among others - is to ensure 'a high level of protection, taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Union. It is based on the principles of precaution and preventive action, on the principle of correcting, with priority at source, the damage caused to the environment, as well as on the 'polluter pays' principle. (TFEU, 191.2).
The precautionary principle entails, in European food law, the use of risk analysis as the basis for all regulatory and administrative decisions. Its application implies that:
- where, on the basis of a scientific risk assessment, a phenomenon, product or process could have potentially dangerous effects (for human and animal health or the environment), and
- the assessment does not allow the risk to be determined (and / or controlled) with sufficient certainty,
- it is necessary to take precautionary measures (e.g. restrictions, prohibitions and other safeguards).
The precaution justifies the prior authorization systems for the deliberate release into the environment of old and new GMOs (as reiterated on 25.7.18 by the EU Court of Justice), atuse of agrotoxins in agriculture, to the administration of veterinary drugs, etc. (2)
US-EU, tug-of-war over food safety
Donald Trump's delegate states that Europe should accept US food production methods - albeit banned by it, on the basis of the precautionary principle - as a condition for concluding free trade negotiations. As ordered in Davos by the US president to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and to the most loyal heads of state to the Atlantic alliance. With the duty stick on imports of their finest goods.
The European Union has already agreed import of 35 thousand tons / year of beef from the United States, on 2.8.19. Officials in Brussels and Washington are also working on removing bureaucratic obstacles to imports of American oysters and other shellfish into the EU, as well as sales of European apples and pears to the US.
Sonny Lost however, he wants to raise the bar, to liberalize the trade in the old continent of both seeds and GMO agricultural commodities (already out of control, across the Atlantic), both of meats and of products derived from animals inflated with hormones and antibiotics. As well as chicken washed with disinfectant chemicals. (3)
Chlorine chicken and animal welfare
Chlorine in chicken has gone out of fashion, in fact, as the poultry industry in the US now also uses another substance, il peracetic acid (PAA). 'Essentially vinegar', to say of Sonny Perdue. PAA, on the other hand, is a powerful biocide (hydrogen peroxide + acetic acid), like Amplon (sulfuric acid + sodium sulphate). (4) FDA Authorized Substances (Food and Drug Administration) as deemed safe until proven otherwise (Generally recognized as safe, GRAS).
The washing of the carcasses with biocides is a practice adopted in the USA to sanitize postmortem the meat of sick animals in life. Which last resort to remedy the serious hygienic deficiencies of overcrowded farms, where the mistreatment of animals is the rule. Even in farms declared 'sustainable', such as those of Whole Foods (Amazon) suppliers.
In Europe this practice is instead prohibited, although the LOBBY some merchant countries tried unsuccessfully to get it admitted in the political examination phase of the 'Hygiene 2' regulation. (5) Precisely because animal welfare is a crucial aspect, not only for ethical reasons but also as a safeguard to guarantee food safety. According to the approach One Health, shared within WHO (World Health Organization). (6)
Chlorine chicken, hormones, antibiotics and food safety
Food safety in the EU it is therefore guaranteed through strict rules based on risk analysis and self-control. According to a principle of integrated supply chain responsibility where all operators - from farm to fork and from stable to table - must scrupulously adopt the best hygienic practices (GAP, GMP) and HACCP (starting from the first phase following agricultural production). For the express purpose of guaranteeing hygiene and food safety at each stage of each individual process.
The use of hormones of growth in Europe has been banned for over two decades and the use of veterinary medicines is subject to strict limits. Prevention is the cornerstone of food safety which is among other things critical - on a global level, in this historical moment - also due to the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance. (7) And it is thanks to the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards developed in the last few decades that the European Union has reached a level of food security unmatched in the world, such as the most recent data demonstrate.
Food safety in the USA
Il Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - US government agency for disease control and prevention - estimates that every year foodborne infections affect 48 million people, 1 in 6, with 128 hospitalizations and 3 deaths. (8) The coronavirus, by comparison, looks like a common cold. And the handling of alerts on food security crises is as opaque as it is inefficient, as seen in case of the most serious recall carried out in silence in 2018.
Only in 2019, according to the report just published by the American Education Fund PIRG, 'High-profile recalls and food-borne disease outbreaks linked to flour, chicken and romaine lettuce reveal further action is needed to protect public health'. (9)
'The calls of meat and poultry more dangerous (Class I) have almost doubled [in 2019, ed], up 85% from 2013, a slight increase compared to 2018. Total meat and poultry recalls have increased by 65% since 2013. While the number of poultry recalls was similar to previous years, the 7,7 tons of poultry and egg products remembered last year more than tripled the average of the previous six years'. (9)
TTIP? No thank you
The TTIP therefore it is prefigured as a real disaster. For food safety, public health and democracy. With the additional risks, which we have already mentioned, which derive from:
- the power of the arbitral tribunals di declare the rules established in the EU as 'illegitimate' and in its Member States for the protection of public health, food safety and animal welfare, SMEs and workers, human rights, ecosystems, (10)
- the indemnity clauses from the responsibility of Corporation for the damage caused by their activities to populations and ecosystems.
#TTIP, no thanks!
(1) Cf. Commission communication on the precautionary principle (COM (2000) 1 final). See also https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM%3Al32042
(2) For further information see the Author's ebooks
- 'GMO, the Big Scam’,
(3) Alan Beattle. US wants chemical-washed chicken on EU trade menu. Financial Times, 27.1.20
(4) Sun Ae Kim et al. (2017). Assessment of Chicken Carcass Microbiome Responses During Processing in the Presence of Commercial Antimicrobials Using a Next Generation Sequencing Approach. Ski Rep. 2017; 7: 43354. doi: 10.1038 / srep43354
(5) See reg. CE 853/04, which lays down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin. See note 2
(6) The EU rules on animal welfare are summarized in previous article
(7) The global public health emergency linked to AMR (Anti-Microbial Resistance) is well described in WHO - WHO reportNo time to wait’, 29.4.19,
(8) See CDC, Estimate of foodborne illness in the United States,
(9) US Pirg - Consumer Watchdog (2020). How safe is our food? Food recall trends through 2019,
(10) See EU Court of Justice, opinion 1/17 (plenary session), 30.4.19 (ECLI: EU: C: 2019: 341)