April 26, 2018

CFS Report Warns of Food Safety Problems with TTIP

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) released a report last week looking at the potential food safety effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currently being negotiated by the U.S. and the European Union. The report, titled “Trade Matters” calls the trade agreement “highly undemocratic and non-transparent.”

Shipping Container ImportsTTIP follows the trade agreement models of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which focus on trade barriers. Those “barriers” are actually health and environmental standards that safeguard the citizens of each country. CFS states that “many analysis believe that a central aim of the negotiations is to dismantle many food safety regulations that corporations view as impediments to trade and profit making.”

The partners negotiating this trade agreement have different approaches to food safety standards. The U.S. has a “risk assessment” approach linked to cost-benefit analysis. The EU uses the “precautionary principle”, which means “better safe than sorry.” CFS claims that the EU has higher food safety standards than the U.S. And unfortunately, U.S. businesses do not like the precautionary principle. For instance, EU has banned neonicotinoid insecticides that are tied to bee colony collapse, whereas the U.S. government is still studying the issue, despite evidence that the pesticide and bee deaths are linked. Neonicotinoids are the biggest selling class of pesticides worldwide.

In another example, EU’s Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected artificial hormone-injected beef in the 1980s, even though only a few studies indicate potential risk to humans at that time. In 1999, EFSA thoroughly reviewed the six artificial hormones that were banned and enforced their opinion that those residues are a risk to human health. One of the hormones is a “complete carcinogen,” according to their report.

In addition, these trade agreements seek “harmonization”, which reduces safeguards and prevents governments from setting safety standards that are more rigorous than the agreement. This can completely change a country’s food safety standards by “relying on regulatory and inspection systems of foreign governments.” The USDA’s recent decision to allow chicken processed in China into the U.S. comes to mind.

For instance, if this agreement is signed, the EU may be forced to authorize and accept GMO crops, lower labeling requirements for GMO foods, accept U.S. poultry that is chemically washed to hide Salmonella levels, and lower or eliminate animal welfare standards. The U.S. may be forced to relax standards of feed ingredients that include materials known to transmit mad cow disease, eliminate the U.S. zero-tolerance policy for Listeria and E. coli in certain foods, and recognize European milk standards as equivalent to U.S. Grade A standard.

CFS states that instead of limiting safeguards, trade agreements such as TTIP should set minimum safety standards that the signing countries must meet, and then let governments go beyond those standards. They also want the negotiating process to be transparent, so interested parties can be part of the process and help set standards in the agreement.

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