A poll of 2,078 people by Populus for the consumer group Which? showed that 95 per cent of the public believed it was important for the UK to maintain existing food standards, which block such products from being sold in the country.
The research revealed that 86 per cent were concerned that UK food standards could be weakened as part of potential trade deals, which campaigners have said could lead to chlorinated chicken becoming widespread in Britain.
“People in Britain – whether rich or poor – are absolutely united in their opposition to lowering food standards and allowing imports of products like chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef into our supermarkets, schools and hospitals,” said Sue Davies, head of consumer protection and food policy at Which?
“Food standards in the UK must not be compromised by any trade deal that would betray decades of progress on food safety, quality and animal welfare. The government must legislate to protect food standards in the Trade Bill or Agriculture Bill to reassure consumers and send a positive message that Britain wants to strike ambitious trade deals that enhance food standards worldwide.”
Support for maintaining UK food standards was consistent across all sections of society, according to the research.
Which? found people with lower incomes were less likely than wealthier households to believe imports of food produced to lower standards should be available in the UK.
About eight in 10 people said they would be uncomfortable eating beef produced with using growth hormones, or meat from healthy farm animals given antibiotics to boost their growth, while seven in 10 would be uncomfortable eating chlorine-washed chicken.
Public opposition to these foods has been consistently at these levels since Which? first asked consumers for their views more than two years ago.
While some advocates of opening up UK markets to these products have said consumers should be free to choose or reject them as long as they are clearly labelled, a clear majority in the Which? poll said food produced to US standards such as chlorinated chicken (63 per cent) and hormone-treated beef (61 per cent) should not be allowed in the UK even if labelled.
Trade negotiations are ongoing between the US and the UK.
Talks appeared to hit a buffer last week when the Trump administration suggested Washington would not sign a trade deal with Britain unless American farmers could sell their meat in Britain.
Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, told the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee that the US was “not going to be in a position where our farmers are treated unfairly”.
MPs from across the House of Commons are opposed to importing meat from the US. Boris Johnson has so far refused to commit in law to upholding current UK food trading standards.
A Department for International Trade spokesman said: “This Government has been clear it will not sign a trade deal that will compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards.
“We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change.
“Chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are not permitted for import into the UK. This will be retained through the EU Withdrawal Act and enshrined in UK law at the end of the transition agreement.”