New Waitrose boss James Bailey has said the retailer will not stock lower quality food imports such as chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef, even if the UK strikes a trade deal that allows such imports.
Mr Bailey, who joined Waitrose as partner and executive director in May, spoke of his pride in the retailer’s high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food quality, and said he has no intention of deviating from these.
Writing in the Waitrose Weekend magazine he said: ‘Whatever happens, let me give you our commitment. We promise we will never sell any Waitrose & partners product that does not meet our own high standards. This praise is regardless of the outcome of any trade deal. It is our promise to you. It is our promise to farmers. It is our promise to the nation.’
His comments follow recent campaigning to change the Agriculture Bill, currently with the House of Lords, to enshrine in law that the UK Government will not allow food to be imported that would be illegal to produce here. Such a prospect has prompted a broad range of concerns, from the impact on British farmers, to the damage to the environment and animal welfare, to the health of the nation.
An NFU petition on the subject has now received over a million signatures.
Mr Bailey commented on the ‘real unease’ among many consumers, MPs and farming and environmental groups, that future trade deals with countries such as the US, could allow lower quality imports in the UK.
Noting that many supporters of US farming systems have argued that British consumers should be able to choose for themselves whether to buy lower quality, cheaper food, Mr Bailey said the British public expects businesses to deliver good quality food no matter what their budget is.
‘And they are right to expect this,’ he continued. ‘Britain’s food sector has established itself as one of the most ethical and affordable in the world – thanks in large part to Britain’s farmers who have pioneered ever-higher standards with support from the government.’