Dr Liam Fox, the trade secretary, reportedly supports the inclusion of US-bred chlorine-bathed poultry products entering British food markets, much to the consternation of colleagues Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom.
While a spokesperson for Fox said the Scottish-born MP had “no position” on the issue, the Daily Telegraph reported a source close to him who said American consumers had been eating the products “safely for years”.
The row came as Fox travelled to Washington for preliminary discussions with his US counterpart on Monday.
But a quick glance at foods which may form part of any future deal reveals a raft of products currently banned from sale in Europe and the UK.
1. CHLORINATED CHICKEN
In the United States, poultry farmers routinely ‘wash’ chickens in chlorinated water in a process designed to rid meat of any germs or bacteria from an animal’s intestinal tract.
The EU has banned the process as it believes the practice incentivises farmers to employ lax protocols around hygiene and welfare throughout the chickens’ lives.
There have also been concerns that the process may allow producers to make meat appear fresher than it is, the Guardian reported.
However, the Adam Smith Institute said that chlorinated chickens are sold at a 20 percent discount in the US.
It said a person would have to eat three whole chlorinated chickens every day for an extended period before coming to harm.
Campaigners Open Britain on Monday called on Fox to use his visit to Washington to eat a chlorine-washed chicken.
“The proof of the chicken is in the eating and if Dr Fox thinks it’s safe, he should put his money where his mouth is,” Open Britain boss James McGrory said.
2. PETROL-BASED ADDITIVES
Some petroleum-derived food additives used routinely in the US are currently banned in the UK and across much of Europe.
One such additive, Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), is inserted in products such as mashed potatoes and ice cream in America to provide a longer shelf life.
Essentially, it prevents fats in foods from going rancid, according to the Scientific American.
But the waxy chemical has been found to be cancerous in animal trials, though no correlation could be made with human cancers, according to ABC.
3. ACID-WASHED MEAT
Lactic acid, which can be made from fermented carbohydrates or through chemical synthesis, is used to bathe meat such as pork and beef in an effort to rid carcasses of germs.
According to research, applying acid wash can reduce pathogens such as Salmonella and E Coli.
But again, opponents say ‘washing’ meat at the end of production could lead to poor habits by abattoirs elsewhere.
Last year, EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis did not categorically rule out the importation of affected products under an EU-US transatlantic trade agreement.
Instead, he said: “No antimicrobial treatments will be approved in the EU unless there is a clear scientific assessment confirming that they are beneficial for consumers (i.e. reduction of microbial contamination and reduction of safety risks).”
The UK Food Standards Agency has previously said it may support the use of lactic acid “in principle”.
4. HORMONE-PUMPED MEAT
Intense farming methods in America are aided by the use of hormones, a practice banned in the EU on safety grounds.
US farmers use growth steroids in pigs, to increase meat mass, and antibiotics in cows, to produce more milk.
According to the Guardian, 75% of medically-important antibiotics were given to animals in America, while the figure was just 40% in the UK as the EU has greater restrictions on their use.
The overuse of antibiotics has led to fears that humans are becoming more resistant to their effects.
5. CANNIBAL ANIMALS
Waste meat from abattoirs is currently prevented by the EU from re-entering the food chain via animal feed.
The EU points towards evidence that the practice is linked to incidences of animal disease.
The powerful American Feed Industry Association has argued that the ruling has prevented its members from making big sales in Europe.
Any move to introduce such products to the UK will face opposition from within the cabinet itself.
Speaking last week, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said: ”[British] farmers produce the high quality food which the rest of us enjoy so much.
“Without them, our lives would be poorer - and our stomachs emptier.
“And we are uniquely fortunate that British food enjoys a reputation for quality which has been built on high animal welfare standards, strong environmental protections and the dedication of farmers and growers to meeting ever more demanding consumer expectations.”