Michael Gove has insisted the UK will not accept imports of chlorinated chicken, deepening a row that has split the cabinet.
The environment secretary was asked on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme whether accepting the controversial foodstuff would be a compromise the UK was willing to take as part of a trade deal with the US post-Brexit.
He responded: “No. I have made it perfectly clear we are not going to dilute our high environmental standards or our animal welfare standards in the pursuit of a trade deal.
“We need to ensure that we do not compromise those standards.
“And we need to be in a position as we leave the European Union to be leaders in environmental and in animal welfare standards.”
Chlorine-washed chicken is currently banned under EU rules.
It comes after Liam Fox told BBC Newsnight there was “no health issue” with chlorinated chicken.
The international trade secretary said: “The European Union has said that is perfectly safe.
“The issue lies around some of the secondary issues of animal welfare and it’s perfectly reasonable for people to raise that but it will come much further down the road.”
He added: “In terms of where we will be on specifics by the time we finish a free trade agreement, which could be two or three years by the time it’s concluded and implemented depending on what happens with the rest of our relationship with the EU, it’s too early to say.
“But you can say on a general principle that we are not going to be the low regulation alternative that some people have suggested.”
Fox has slammed the British media for being “obsessed” with chlorine-washed chickens after he was challenged to eat one while on a visit to Washington.
The row comes after a new report warned animal welfare standards could take a step backwards after Brexit as UK farmers struggle to compete with cheap imported foods.
A House of Lords investigation into the impact of leaving the EU on animal welfare predicts farmers could be sucked into a “race to the bottom” as they struggle to keep prices low.