After Brexit the chicken we eat could mess up our gut bacteria

Chlorinated chicken which could flock to the UK following Brexit may mess with our gut bacteria, warns a leading UK biochemist.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 14:54 pm
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 14:59 pm

It's already common practice to dip chickens in chlorine in the US and with Britain possibly still leaving the European Union in October, the majority of chickens may in future be imported from America. 

The process is said to reduce risks of salmonella quite significantly, but Dr Gill Hart, Scientific Director at food intolerance testing lab YorkTest, believes that the process can also impact good gut bacteria as well. That could mean it may be too much to stomach for some.

Chlorinated chicken which could flock to the UK following Brexit may mess with our gut bacteria

 "The use of chemicals such as chlorine in food processing can and does impact the integrity of the gut may also be contributing to the global increase in food intolerances," she says. 

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 "When chlorine is introduced into the human body, it can destroy our beneficial gut bacteria, where an estimated 70 per cent of our immune system operates.

"However, on the other hand, the presence of potentially pathogenic bacteria and food poisoning also compromises the gut.

"As with all these things, there is always a balance and individuals need accurate information so that they can make their own choices. 

Chlorinated chicken which could flock to the UK following Brexit may mess with our gut bacteria

"For me I would not choose chlorinated chicken and would try to buy as fresh as possible."

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority said that chlorate is a potential health concern for children but the total intake in current European diets wasn't a cause for concern. 

Back in the US, farms are allowed to dip or wash chicken in chlorine dioxide. It's done to kill potentially harmful organisms such as E coli and salmonella on the meat's surface and is known as PRT - pathogen prediction treatment. Dipping takes place after the animal is slaughtered and prior to the meat being packaged.

Under EU regulations producers are not allowed to wash meat with anything other than water unless otherwise approved by the EU. 

The EU banned the import of chicken which was disinfected with chemical rinses two decades ago.

But in America citizens eat over 156 million such chickens per week. 

European Commission figures suggest a person would need to eat 5 per cent of their bodyweight in chlorinated chicken every day for it to pose a risk to their health. 

Supporters of chlorinated-chicken washing say British trade negotiators should be allowed to clear the way for the import of chemically washed chicken from America as part of a fast free-trade agreement.