Food in TTIP: What is at stake for EU consumers?

Food is one of the vital sectors which will be majorly affected by a TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) agreement between the EU and the US.

A new BEUC position paper on Food and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is available as of today, wherein we have identified three main areas of concern.

 1. Decontamination treatments
The US authorises slaughterhouses to use decontamination treatments on carcasses, on a massive scale. Chemicals like chlorine and peroxyacids are used to wash meat at the end of the production line. Such treatments are not allowed in the EU due to insufficient evidence as to their efficacy and the potential risk to consumers’ safety. TTIP should not be used as a vehicle to allow these treatments within the EU.

2. ‘Farm-to-fork’ approach
In the EU, food safety is guaranteed by the ‘farm to fork’ approach, meaning that food safety must be ensured throughout the production chain. This approach minimises the risk of human contamination with poisonous bacteria carried by farmed animals, either via consumption or transmission from the production environment. As such, it has greater public health benefits than ‘end-of-line’ pathogen reduction treatments focussed only on the food pathway. BEUC is aiming to prevent any potential negative impacts TTIP could have on consumers’ wellbeing.

3. Growth promoters and antibiotic resistance
The growing problem of antibiotic resistance knows no border and causes many deaths on both sides of the Atlantic every year (25,000 in the EU). BEUC is calling for a ban on the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on animals bred for food and we oppose the lifting of bans on the import of meat treated with hormones or growth promoters because of TTIP.

Aside from the aforementioned concerns, TTIP does present some opportunities for both blocs to step up cooperation in the food sector. Although currently not part of the negotiating trade agenda of the EU or US, we see positive potential for consumers for example in:

- Food traceability
Recent scandals involving supposed beef products tainted with horsemeat in the EU as well as poultry and tomatoes in the US show a need for both partners to advance their practices. TTIP is an opportunity to put more effective food traceability systems in place.

- Food alert systems
Under TTIP, trade barriers will open so a broader range of foodstuffs will circulate in a wider market. Therefore, sharing food safety information effectively and quickly in emergencies is also an area where we see potential for cooperation between the EU and US.