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Time to push 'the sheer quality' of Highland produce amid UK-USA trade deal fears, Ross MP insists

By Hector MacKenzie

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Highland venison showcased at a previous Highlands and Islands Food Awards.
Highland venison showcased at a previous Highlands and Islands Food Awards.

INCREASINGLY food savvy members of the public will see through attempts to lower standards in a bid to secure trade deals with the United States, a Ross-shire MP has claimed.

The future of food standards in the United Kingdom has become a political hot potato in recent weeks amid growing concerns standards could be dropped to meet American requirments for any post-Brexit trade deal.

The National Farmers Union has been joined by a number of cross-party politicians in raising concerns and warning of a potential knock-on impact to domestic producers if supermarket shelves become flooded with cheaper and, they insist, inferior fare.

Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Jamie Stone, spoke in a debate in the House of Commons about the future of the UK's Food Standards.

The debate was granted after the UK Government u-turned on its promise to keep the chlorinated chicken out of British supermarkets under pressure from American negotiators in post-Brexit trade talks.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Stone said: "I think that I should declare an interest, Madam Deputy Speaker, by pointing out that my younger brother is a maker of Highland cheese. Highland crofters and farmers do very well out of the fact that the image of Highland food is that it is of the highest standard.

"None of us wants to see standards lowered; I think that we in this Chamber speak with one voice in that regard. However, the general public are very discerning when they shop, and they are becoming ever more discerning as time goes by.

"I think that the more we push and advertise the sheer quality of Scottish, highland and Northern Irish food products, the better we will do."

Speaking afterward, Mr Stone said:"I remain unconvinced that the Conservative Government is going to be really firm about blocking inferior products such as Trump’s chlorinated chicken.

"But I remain completely convinced that the Highlands has the best food to offer. I really do hope we continue buying local goods - high-quality Highland products we trust and love."

Dingwall-based SNP MSP Kate Forbes has also raised concerns over the impact a drop in food standards could have on local producers and urged people to back a National Farmers Union petition over the issue.

A transcript of the Commons debate, which includes cross-party comment, can be read here.

Related: Ross-shire MSP Kate Forbes backs NFU petition over food trade deal fears

Whisky tariff a 'troubling glimpse' into post-Brexit trade negotiations says GMB

K T Tunstall checks out cheese in Ross-shire

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