THE UK is ‘unfounded’ in its concerns over food safety standards in the US – according to a US government official who attempted to brush off fears that a future trade deal between both countries could lead to a diminution in standards.

Addressing The Scottish Farmer, amongst other UK journalists at a food show in Chicago, Foreign Agricultural Service administrator Ken Isley responded to apprehensions held by many over chlorinated chicken and GM products flooding UK shelves in the event of a post-Brexit trade deal.

“Chlorinating chicken is a limited process here in the US and is being phased out for newer technologies – less than 20% of chicken is now chlorinated. Using Acetic acid is one option we are looking at with the goal of removing microorganisms from food being processed.

“There are a lot of myths out there around food. We don’t have lower food standards; we are more advanced and scientifically driven than places in the EU,” claimed the US Department of Agriculture official.

He went on to criticise the UK for its ‘old fashioned’ approach to modern technology and suggested that with the global population set to reach 10billion by 2050, the UK needed to step up its game.

“In a lot of ways it (the EU approach) is old-fashioned, it’s based on traditions, not based on modern science and technology. There is a view that innovation should apply everywhere but agriculture and I disagree with that,” he continued.

“The US has billions of acres of crops which have been grown using bio-technology without a single food safety issue and we think the advantages far outweigh the potential concerns.”

Mr Isley went on to suggest that developments in UK agriculture have been stifled by choosing not to embrace ‘modern technologies.’

“New breeding technologies and practices such as gene editing increase the ability to get genetic improvements dramatically. I understand some people are resistant but there is a bigger picture and as producers, we need to be looking forward not just maintaining the status quo. Innovation is essential and we believe it should be judged based on science and data,” he insisted.

The US may be self-sufficient in food production, but this hasn’t hindered their interest in a potential trade deal with the UK.

Mr Isley explained: “It’s not often that a G5 country becomes available, like would be the case with Brexit and a great opportunity to deepen our relationship. We want to provide choice to consumers which they have grown to love, which is why we want to increase trading opportunities.”

In 2017, US trade figures suggested that the US purchased $22bn in agricultural products from the EU and sold $11bn, creating a massive deficit.

“We want a level playing ground, free fair and reciprocal trade provisions,” added Mr Isley.

With a growing appetite for provenance and strict food labelling in the UK, the USDA official went on to clarify his government’s stance on the matter.

“We are all about transparency and choice, at both a farmer and consumer level. We want consumers to have information through labelling,” he claimed.

Despite this assurance, an outing later that week to a beef cattle feedlot in Illinois revealed that lack of traceability is one of the biggest problems holding back the meat sector.

“Of all the countries which export meat, the US is the only one that doesn’t have traceability yet and we need to get there,” said Mike Martz who runs a feedlot finishing around 8000 beef cattle yearly.

He even admitted that his operation has bought in Holstein cattle from over 800 miles away in Pennsylvania without any traceability, raising worrying questions over biosecurity.

Mr Martz suggested that people didn’t want to pay the price of putting in an identification tag but did reveal that pilots are underway in Kansas, Texas and Florida to look at implementing some form of electronic tagging.