- Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warns Boris Johnson that a US trade deal with Donald Trump will lead to “rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice”
- “Given the chance, they will slash food standards to US levels where ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they will put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves,” he said.
- Corbyn’s comments refer to a Business Insider report which revealed that producers in the US are allowed to include insect fragments in peanut butter, rodent hairs in paprika, and rat excrement in ginger.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Boris Johnson’s planned post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump will lead to UK consumers being forced to consume products containing rat hairs and maggots, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn warned today.
In a speech in Essex, Corbyn said that any agreement with the US would force the UK to accept US food standards which allow set amounts of maggots, rodent hairs and excrement in ingredients, as revealed by Business Insider last year.
“Given the chance, they will slash food standards to US levels where ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they will put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves,” he said.
In advance of the speech, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer was accused by Sky News presenter Kay Burley on Tuesday of “scaremongering” over the issue.
Sir @Keir_Starmer says that @jeremycorbyn is pointing out "real worries about food standards" by saying there 'will be maggots in orange juice' following a trade deal with the US.#KayBurley at #Breakfast
— Sky News (@SkyNews) November 5, 2019
However, as Business Insider reported in October last year, US producers must adhere to a “Defect Levels Handbook” which describes the maximum number of foreign bodies such as maggots, insect fragments and mould that allowed in different types of foods before they enter the market.
Producers in the US are allowed to include up to 30 insect fragments in a 100-gram jar of peanut butter. as well as 11 rodent hairs in a 25-gram container of paprika, or 3 milligrams of mammalian excreta (typically rat or mouse excrement) per each pound of ginger.
There are no similarly acceptable levels of these items in the EU.
The Trump administration has indicated that it will demand much greater access to the British food market as the price of any trade deal, having long considered EU rules a barrier to UK-US trade.
In March, the US trade representative, headed by Robert Lighthizer, published its objectives for a post-Brexit trade agreement which sought “comprehensive market access for US agricultural goods in the UK.”
It also called for the removal of “unwarranted barriers” related to “sanitary and phytosanitary” standards in the farm possibility, indicating that it would demand the UK matched its own food safety standards.
UK government ministers have repeatedly insisted that there will be no deterioration in British food standards after Brexit.
Rat hair and faeces
US food law allows traces of rodent in a variety of foods. For example, producers are allowed up to 11 rodent hairs per 25 grams of paprika and cinnamon; 4.5 hairs per 225 grams of noodles; and 4 hairs per 25 grams of curry powder.
It’s not just hair. US producers will also get away with mammalian excreta (mammal excrement) in their food, usually from rodents. You could find up to 3 milligrams per pound of ginger and 10 milligrams per pound of cocoa beans.
US producers are currently allowed one maggot per 250 millilitres of citrus juice – like orange and apple juice – and two per 100 grams of tomato juice. You could also find two maggots for every 100 grams of the tomato paste used on pizzas.
In the US, the law allows up to 30 insect fragments per 100 grams of peanut butter; 60 insect fragments per 100 grams of chocolate; and up to 100 per 10 grams of nutmeg.
The US also allows worms and caterpillars in food products within limits. Only 3% of canned peaches and 5% of currants can be “wormy” (definition: infested with or eaten into by worms.)
When it comes to spinach, US producers are allowed two spinach worms (caterpillars) which are longer than 12 millimetres per 24 pounds of the plant.
And then we have mould. According to the US’ Food Defect Handbook, mould is an acceptable feature of a wide variety of food. 25% of salt-cured olives per batch put on the market are allowed to be mouldy, for example. As are 20% of canned pineapple segments, and 15% of cranberry sauce.
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