Three-quarters of Brits would reject US 'frankenfoods'

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Three quarters of Brits would reject American ‘frankenfoods’ like hormone-treated beef, chlorine-washed chicken and GM grain, exclusive research for The Grocer has revealed.

Farmers have raised concerns a UK/US free trade deal would flood British supermarkets with cheap food produced to lower standards, but a survey of 1,043 consumers by Harris Interactive suggests most Brits would choose to avoid US imports.

Over 60% of consumers said they would be worried about eating hormone-treated beef, chlorine-washed chicken and meat treated routinely with antibiotics, while 45% said they would be concerned about genetically modified grain.

Animal welfare was also a concern, with over half (56%) of Brits saying they wouldn’t want to eat pork produced using farrowing crates, banned in the UK since 1999 but still legal in the US.

Just 20% of consumers surveyed said they were not concerned about any US production methods.

Even low prices wouldn’t convince shoppers to buy hormone-treated beef and chlorine-washed chicken, the research found, with just 15% of respondents saying they might buy this meat if it were cheaper. Over a third (37%) said nothing would convince them to buy it, while 43% would only buy it if scientists confirmed it was safe.

Most (75%) of Brits also believe the UK should maintain its current food safety standards after Brexit, with just 15% stating Brexit was an opportunity to embrace “modern” food production methods like those used in the US.

Nearly half (47%) said hormone treatment of cattle was totally unacceptable, with 9% saying it would be OK to accept imports of US beef produced this way if British farmers could use it too.

And while 29% of respondents said they would be happy with chlorine-washing of chicken if it meant less salmonella and campylobacter, 35% said they still wouldn’t be happy for UK processors to use it even if it did help tackle food poisoning bugs.

“Whilst the sanctity of our meat is not top of the Brexit agenda, the potential implications are huge and scary for many Brits,” said Lucia Juliano, research sector head at Harris Interactive.

She added this would most likely mean “more people would buy British and local”.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Robin Norton

    Interesting survey, but I wonder how US citizens would respond to the same questions. I suspect many don't know, and some would not care how their food was produced unless they were asked questions phrased as these were ... ?

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  • Robin - the last US survey I saw showed that most US consumers are not aware they are eating GM food, and a majority would not want to. That is why the 'Non-GMO' Project is said to be the fastest growing grocery label in the US - just joined by Cargill which is developing non-GM supply chains with them.
    Peter Melchett

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  • Please consider signing BOTH of these two petitions:

    European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) Petition:


    Sign the petition to the Prime Minister for a BAN of ALL crop spraying of poisonous pesticides near our homes, schools and playgrounds!
    Thank you.

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  • Sophia Nadur

    It is not surprising therefore the strong emotional response to the possibility of "frankenfood" from the US flooding into the UK and elsewhere.
    Man-made efforts to control nature will always be controversial, however we need to find ways to sustainably feed 9 billion mouths by 2050.
    Part of this need will be met by initiatives to waste less food that we currently produce AND reduce per capita consumption of meat and dairy in countries that already consume too much food.
    We do need to support better crop yields that use less water and land. Genetic modification of plants can be one of the solutions. However, I do not think the "Monsanto" way (a non-transparent system that benefits only a few) is the right approach.

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