Keep British food on the menu
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Britain and the USA are not only ‘separated by a common language’, but the food going into mouths on either side of the Atlantic is as different as the words coming out of them. in America, chocolate is sweeter, biscuits are ‘cookies’ and tend to fragment when dipped in hot drinks and jam is ‘jelly’. Heinz baked beans are entirely different and you can forget about ribena, sausage rolls, Gentleman’s relish and marmalade. they make great wine, admittedly, but where’s the cheese to go with it?
We are parsimonious with ice, apt to underfill sandwiches and be unimaginative with salads, visible signs of differing food traditions that extend from portion size to production. However, trade deals, of the kind we’ll have to agree post-brexit, and not just with the USA, require common standards. Food is moving rapidly up the political menu.
the EU Common Agricultural Policy has always been contentious here, first for its butter mountains and wine lakes, latterly for the fairness—or not—of the Single Farm Payment. in addition, our efficient civil service probably imposed welfare regulations with greater zeal than other member states, making us less competitive. in the early days, this put some small producers out of business and it continues to favour big agri-business over start-ups and niche producers, however, consumers can be confident about the quality of British food, which can be the best in the world.
We can’t be complacent, however. it was not so long ago that grotesque practices in the beef sector gave rise to BSE, although, thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as bad as predicted. We have good supermarkets, but enthusiasm for buying local food isn’t shared widely: most people shop by price. Leaving the EU should drive prices down further, but Defra Secretary Michael Gove must ensure that imports can only be permitted when they meet British standards.
Should chicken be washed in chlorine, as in the USA? it appears to be a fine point. not so the regular feeding of antibiotics to farm animals, which is more prevalent there (Agromenes, page 31). Defra’s overworked staff will have to establish a new regulatory regime for genetically modified crops, the development of which has been slow and truncated in Europe compared to the rest of the world.
A more enlightened attitude to progress could be one of the great wins of Brexit, for science as well as for farmers, but saying that it won’t be easy to achieve is an understatement. Defra’s sudden prominence on the political stage comes with unfortunate timing, as it’s suffered brutal cuts. Mr Gove will need to wield all the clout he’s got.
‘Michael Gove must ensure that imports can only be permitted when they meet British standards