The newly installed boss at UK supermarket Waitrose has added to a chorus of calls from farmers, consumer groups and food campaigners urging the British Government not to accept lower food safety and welfare standards as the price of striking a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
In an open letter and accompanying video, Waitrose’s executive director, James Bailey, says that Waitrose “stands shoulder to shoulder with Compassion in World Farming, WWF, Which?, the National Farmers Union and many environmental groups” in efforts to safeguard UK standards.
Commenting on the argument that consumer choice should prevail, Bailey says: “Some supporters of American farming systems have argued that British consumers should be able to decide for themselves whether they’d like to buy ‘cheaper’ produce at the cost of lower standards. This, of course, assumes the British public are motivated either by price or by their values, when in fact, I know they expect food businesses to deliver on both simultaneously – no matter what their budget is.”
He adds: “It would be simply wrong to maintain high standards at home yet import food from overseas that has been produced to lower standards. We would be closing our eyes to a problem that exists in another part of the world and to animals who are out of our sight and our minds. I feel sure customers will share our view.”
In a defiant, closing remark, Bailey says: “We promise we will never sell any Waitrose product that does not meet our own high standards.” In other words, he is making it very clear to Ministers, that whatever they decide, Waitrose will not be selling “chlorinated chicken, beef treated with growth hormones and fruit and veg treated with pesticides currently banned in the UK by EU law”.