Chlorinated chicken and beef stuffed with hormones, the main menu post Brexit era

A “bureaucratised” European Union (EU) has said no to chlorinated chicken and to overuse of growth hormones and antibiotics in farming. However, the reality is far to be true. European countries may not allow chicken to be bleached, but hormones and antibiotics yes. These practises have become an issue and many voices have showed a strong opposition to their use.

In this scenario, the EU has decided to impose a ban on preventative use of antibiotics in farming. This measure will come into force in 2022. Unfortunately, for the Remain in EU supporters and, fortunately, for Brexit supporters, a new wide menu will come to the UK. Healthy or not, it is a different subject.

The UK left the EU on the 31st January 2020. But, until the 31st December 2020, the UK will continue to follow all of the EU rules and effectively their trading relationship remain the same. So far, the majority of British imports of meat and dairy come from the EU. But, from 2021, the story will be different and the UK may open their doors for the United States.

Will chlorinated chicken be like this? Image by Dalnimi Oh from Pixabay

Sadly, the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics affirms that “ the US farmed animals receive five times the amount of antibiotics as farmed animals in the UK” (1). Antibiotics in cattle is 8-9 times higher in the US than in the UK. Twice in pigs, more than twice in chickens and 9 times higher in turkeys.

The UK enters into trade negotiations with the US post-Brexit and antibiotics use in farms will become an issue. At the moment, the EU controls countries through sanctions, but those penalties can be removed. It would open the door for imports of meat and dairy from the US that do not meet higher welfare standards. In this situation, the UK will allow: beef from hormone treated cattle, chlorine-washed chicken meat, pig meat from animals treated with the growth-promoting chemical ractopamine and dairy products produced from cows injected with growth hormones. Obviously, the menu options become wider and wider, but what about the human health?

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics can be a “lifesaver”, but they can also turn into a useless weapon. An overuse of antibiotics has a high risk, it creates superbugs or bacteria that display antibiotic resistance. As people consume either directly (prescription) or indirectly (food) thousands of “healthy” medicines, their body slowly become resistant to these drugs or treatments.

A simple act of taking antibiotics doesn’t appear to be safe any longer. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that more than 700.000 people die every year because of antibiotic resistance (2). Also, WHO has warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest global threats to health, security and development.

mapa mundi
World map made with antibiotic pills. Image by Jukka Niittymaa from Pixabay

In fact, some experts already talk about antibiotic resistance as a silent pandemic. Dr Ronan McCarthy Bsc, Phd, FHEA, Lecture in Biosciences, Brunel University London, ensures that although “moving at a slower pace than the current Covid-19 pandemic” antibiotic resistance “has the potential to lead 10 million deaths per year by 2050 (3). McCarthy also affirms that “the ongoing antibiotic resistance crisis will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic as antibiotic usage in hospital increases and more Covid-19 patients become challenged by secondary – potentially antibiotic resistant- infections. So, who knows if in the near future the antibiotic resistance will become a new deadly pandemic?





  • Francisco D

    Congratulations for the article, Juan!
    You always choose very actual and interesting subjects for people looking after their nutrition.

    Definitely leaving EU without a deal would mean a huge change in term of trading, food quality and hygiene.
    Do you think after Brexit will affect also an rise in the grocery prices?

    Many thanks

    • Juan Lainez

      Hello FD,

      Thank you for your kind words. Re: grocery prices. Yes, I believe so, however everything is in the air at the moment. If there’s no deal, I think prices can easily go up. As a member of the European Union, at the moment the UK doesn’t pay tariffs on goods – including food products – coming in from other EU countries. But from January 2021 story will be different. I have read some reports/studies and all of them believe that prices will go up, from 5 to 10%. Let’s see. We have to wait.


      • FD

        Thanks for your quick response, Juan.
        I agree with you, I think prices will raise in the following years.


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