WASHINGTON – Members of Congress are appealing to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to request that US chicken products be included in any new trade agreements with the United Kingdom.

Representative Steve Womack (R – Ark.), along with 46 other members of Congress, sent a letter March 10 making the formal request. The letter addresses the European Union’s ban on US-exported chicken because of the practice by US processors of using chlorine during processing. The United Kingdom has been following the European Union’s standards since they were set in 1997.

 “With almost 1 of 5 lbs of chicken being exported, a robust and expanding overseas market is extremely important to the economic health and well-being of the US chicken industry,” said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council. “Including US chicken is critical in any new trade agreement with the UK – an agreement that should not be hampered by artificial trade barriers. I want to thank Congressman Womack for his leadership on this issue and for the members who signed the letter for their commitment to expanding US chicken exports.”

Following the United Kingdom’s formal departure from the European Union on Jan. 31, the country is now able to negotiate its own trade agreements with other nations.

On Oct. 16, 2018, the US Trade Representative (USTR) notified Congress of its intent to negotiate a trade deal with the United Kingdom after the country official exited the European Union. The USTR’s negotiating objectives were formally published on Feb. 29, 2019. On March 2, the United Kingdom published its post-Brexit negotiating objectives, which included references to “chlorine-washed chicken.”

“The UK’s current food and product standards should be maintained and not negatively impacted by an FTA with the US,” the United Kingdom’s negotiating objectives read.

The letter to USTR Lighthizer read, “Antimicrobial spray washes are used in the production process to improve food safety. However, all rinses, including chlorine, must be approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and their use is limited to specific amounts. This is just one step in the process – the USDA also inspects all chicken produced in the US. Additionally, only an estimated 10% of the processing plants in the US use chlorine throughout production and scientific research confirms using chlorine-washed chicken does not pose any human health concerns, nor is it present in the final product. There is no question that extensive scientific research and inspection are applied throughout the entire chicken production process to ensure consumer safety.”

More information on the use of antimicrobial rinses can be found at Chicken Check In.

The United States is the second-largest exporter of chicken and the largest exporter of turkey. US poultry is exported to more than 120 countries around the world.

“Adding a new market like the UK will continue the momentum gained by opening markets like China and Japan to our chicken industry,” the letter said. “Lifting this ban will set the stage for future agreements, such as with the EU, and reinforce the Administration’s stance that US farmers and ranchers are an integral part of the American economy that should not be left behind.”