SOME UK fast food companies have been accused of fuelling fires in the Brazilian rainforest.

EU trade figures have revealed that some £240m of soya was shipped to the UK in 2018 – which campaigners allege a large proportion of which is used to feed farm animals for fast food production.

Greenpeace has urged companies to stop using soya from Brazil in their supply chains until better regulations are in place to protect the environment.

Greenpeace head of forests Richard George said: "All of the big fast-food companies use soya in animal feed, none of them know where it comes from and soya is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation worldwide."

According to the Sustainable Trade Initiative only 14% of total soya imports are certified as ‘deforestation free’ which has prompted traders to agree not to buy from farms linked to recent deforestation.

Environmental campaigners claim ongoing fires in both the Amazon and Cerrado regions of Brazil are being lit deliberately to clear land for raising animals and growing crops.

In October 2017, 23 brands, including McDonald's, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, signed the Cerrado Manifesto, which recognised the need to prevent further deforestation.

However, agricultural trader Cargill, which acts as a middleman between farmers and food companies, has yet to sign on board. According to data from Trase.Earth – a partnership of non-governmental organisations - they found Cargill to be the largest importer to the UK, shipping 78% of the soya from Brazil in 2017.

Cargill has accused this data of being inaccurate and hugely inflated and in July this year, told its Brazilian supplier it would not support a temporary ban on soya grown on newly deforested land in the Cerrado.

A spokeswomen for Cerrado commented: "We remain committed to the soy moratorium in the Amazon but we believe that is not the right solution for the Cerrado,"

"Asking companies to exit won't solve the problem - it will simply move it. By pushing farmers to other buyers, the same practices will continue." Cargill has pledged £24m to fund new ideas for ending deforestation.

Environmental campaigners have upped their pressure on UK retailers to boycott Brazilian imports, with Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S all pledging to achieve zero deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.

Burger King – which has been accused by environmental groups of sourcing some of their chicken from Brazil – has been criticised after pledging to end deforestation in its supply chains by 2030 – a target labelled as ‘embarrassingly weak’.

Burger King claimed to have written to its meat suppliers to remind them of its policy of not accepting products raised on former rainforest land and say its beef suppliers in the UK use soya as a minor food additive only.

A spokeswoman commented: "We are aware that in some of our beef, there are trace amounts of soya in the feed. We are also aware that there is no traceability programme in place anywhere in the world that can currently track all soybeans to a single farm in a single country."