(NaturalNews) Unlike in the United States, Europeans have a much lower tolerance for meat products treated with chemicals and antibiotics, and they're not very fond of genetically modified foods (GM) either.
Last week, European and U.S. officials entered into the sixth round of negotiations over whether or not to allow the import of chlorine-washed chicken into the European Union (EU) under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Although banned by the EU and USDA organic rules, conventional chicken in the United States is routinely bathed in chlorine baths to disinfect the carcass in order to remove any pathogens, a practice that the EU prefers to avoid.
At a stakeholder forum held by the European Commission on July 16, consumer and environmental groups warned that, under the TTIP, chlorine-washed American chicken could flood EU markets and damage public health, according to a report by Global Meat News.
The EU also still blocks imports of American hormone-treated beef and refuses to accept any meat that's treated with anything more than water.
"In the UK, Denmark and Finland, studies found that consumers acceptance of meat treated with chemicals is very low," said Camille Perrin, senior food policy officer at the European consumer organization Bureau Europeen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC).
"It is vital that European consumers' preference for meat that has not been washed with chemicals is recognised and protected especially because this practice would threaten the farm-to-fork approach to food safety and also public health," she added.
U.S. officials rejected Perrin's remarks, arguing that chlorine-washed chicken is a "safe alternative" and consumers shouldn't be denied maximum choice if the food is proven to be safe.
However, opponents didn't buy it and countered that the U.S.'s practice of washing chicken in chemicals is an "end-of-tube" approach that fails to meet the EU's strict food standards.
Germany, loudest voice against trade agreement
Germany, Europe's biggest exporter, has been one of the strongest voices throughout the talks, as the country expressed concerns about threats to health and the environment under the proposed agreement.
"A transatlantic pact would create a market of 800 million people and allow Germany to sell more of its luxury cars, trains and chemicals in the United States," reported EurActiv.com.
The deal would generate around $75 million for both Germany and the U.S., but despite its attraction, Germans are wary of chlorine-washed American chicken, with the majority believing the practice to be dangerous to human health. EU says food culture deeply anchored by "high hygiene standards"
"The approach to food safety in the European Union, producing natural products with high hygiene standards throughout the entire process, rather than a chemical treatment at the end of the process, is deeply anchored in our European food culture and therefore we strongly support it," said a spokeswoman for the German Poultry Association.
"The way we regulate food safety will not change as a result of TTIP. The food safety will be regulated exactly the same way as it is done now, based on scientific advices and opinion of the independent European Food Safety Authority," said a European Commission trade policy spokesperson. "The EU will deal with any current application as regards anti-microbial treatments on the basis of EU law."
Some experts say that an agreement on a common set of regulations would need to be reached in order to allow food declared fit for sale in the U.S. to be sold in the EU, and vice versa, which would be difficult, considering the vast regulatory differences between the regions.
Negotiations about TTIP were expected to be completed by the end of this year; however, opposition from experts in industry, consumer and environmental organizations has delayed progress.