THE SCENE: Dr Strangelove is in the war room and so is the President.
Every member of the European Movement, who signed that letter saying Brexit is catastrophic, has been admitted and is looking at the big board with all the research and are discussing all the wickedness the Brexiteers are up too. Fluorine in the water may deplete our vital bodily fluids but it's chlorination chicken that's the real doomsday weapon out there.
The EU has a chlorination gap so now it must have a first strike...
OK that's a poor script but so too is what's coming out of the Remainers' war room of late.
I heard the chlorination chicken nonsense from the mouth of former MEP Struan Stevenson back in March, this one has been bubbling under the surface for months among those who want Brexit Turpirtzed. It's a sign of desperation and of total ignorance of science.
The truth is there is a chlorination gap and that is because the EU doesn't and the USA does. It happens to be a very good treatment. The science is clear.
The argument against is residual chlorinated byproducts can theoretically make us ill and may even be carcinogenic. The argument for is that campylobacter and salmonella kill. No theory, just that they do kill with regularity and they make many others ill too. This is especially the case in summer, which occasionally graces Scotland. Let's not forget water is chlorinated too, about 99 per cent of all chlorinated organic residues are consumed through our consumption of tap water. In China and other Asian countries it is quite normal to boil the kettle for a full minute before using it for tea, to drive this residue off.
There is a fourfold higher rate of campylobacter EU-wide than in the USA.
Did you read that right? Yep! Fourfold!
The EU's logic is that better cleanliness is a substitute for terminal chlorination when slaughtering poultry. This assumes extremely high standards across the single market and this is clearly not happening. Gutting a chicken invariably tears parts of the gut, from the gizzard down to the cloaca. Contamination can happen without obvious soiling... my surgery days taught me this much.
The advantage of a light chlorine rinse is that is it an insurance against missed contamination. Bacteria grow even at low temperature. Storing even slightly soiled chicken meat will increase bacterial counts over days and even weeks. Freezing reduces this, and irradiation can annihilate it completely.
Given grain prices and subsidies in the USA we can assume most economy grade chicken (expected to be 20 per cent cheaper) would be imported from the USA to the UK and not the reverse. Given the higher rate of campylobacter here the UK should be focusing on how to reduce this down to USA rates, with or without the chlorine rinse.
It should also follow the clear principles of food labelling and segregate American chicken from British chicken. People who are elderly or have weaker immune systems can choose to buy American chicken, as I certainly would if I were having a barbeque in the summer. Any other time I'd buy British and ensure it was well cooked.
There is a far stronger case for the USA banning EU chicken than the reverse given the evidence base and the submission by the EU's own food scientists that there is no obvious harm from having chicken chlorinated.
Given the top two food export items from Scotland are drenched in nitrosamines (whisky) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons like pyrene (smoked salmon) I would suggest discretion be the better part of valor here.
Smoking salmon is more carcinogenic than chlorinating a chicken. Then again the risks of both are negligible compared to the risk of food poisoning so why not try both together next time.
Serving suggestion above.