CHLORINATED chicken is dominating the press. Or, put another way, food standards in the context of international trade deals.

There are two sides of this argument, but a bit of explanation first.

The reference to chlorinated chicken comes from US standards of food production. The US allows lower animal welfare, but higher standards of cleanliness.

So, unhappy chickens need to be rinsed in chlorine to make them safe to eat. UK chickens have higher standards, so carry fewer bugs on them.

We don’t need to sterilise them. But we are four times more likely to catch a bug from a UK chicken than a US one. And UK standards means higher prices for local food.

So, one of the arguments is about consumer choice. Many argue that if the consumer knows the origin of their food, and can make an informed decision, why should they be denied the opportunity to buy cheaper food?

The other side of the argument is that if the government, reflecting popular opinion on animal welfare standards, sets targets that make UK food more expensive, it would be wholly wrong and contradictory to then allow our domestic producers to be undercut by cheap imports.

The media is full of celebrity chefs campaigning for high standards. But what is perplexing is that they are calling for MPs to support an amendment that serves no purpose whatsoever. Indeed, it has negative effects on developing countries.

Our food standards are set in law, including the EU Withdrawal Act. Changing these standards requires new legislation.

Our standards are regulated by the Food Standards Agency. With imports, this is done by a licensing regime that forces countries seeking to import food to the UK to go through a comprehensive licensing process.

Trade deals cannot over-ride UK domestic law. Moreover, these deals will be scrutinised by the International Trade Committee (of which I am a member) and other select committees with relevant interests (such as the Environment Select Committee, looking at food standards).

If parliament doesn’t like a trade deal, it can block its passage using the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. And the government works with the NFU (and others) through the Strategic Trade Advisory Group.

Animal welfare is, rightly, high on people’s priorities. But the arguments get confused and misguided, frequently by misunderstanding of what is going on.

There is no intention to compromise any UK animal welfare standards, either through trade deals or in any other way.