In a new report, entitled Trade Matters: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - Impacts on Food and Farming, the CFS notes that a central aspect of trade agreements over the past two decades has been the harmonisation of differing safety standards between countries.
Report author Debbie Barker said that, in reality, this effectively changes a nation’s food safety standards, and often means imports are allowed into a country even though they don’t meet the specific standards of that country.
The meat industry was a key focus of the report, with an example given of when Australia adopted a privatised meat inspection system, which lowered standards. According to the CFS, the US maintained Australia’s "equivalency" status, which "resulted in increasing incidents of Australian meat imports being contaminated with faecal matter and digestive tract contents".
The report also highlighted potential food safety threats to the EU and the US. These included the acceptance by the EU of US meat imports from livestock treated with non-therapeutic antibiotics and growth-enhancing hormones, pork that had been treated with ractopamine, and chemically washed poultry.
Meanwhile possible threats to the US included relaxing standards for feed ingredients that feature ruminant materials, and the elimination of the US’ zero-tolerance policy for the presence of listeria and E.coli.
The report added that as the World Trade Organisation’s dispute resolution system only allows for country-versus-country legal challenges, it also demonstrates a bias against high levels of food safety and public health protection.