Cutting red tape in environmental regulation could increase the number of carcinogens in products on UK shelves, ministers have been warned.
A new Environment Bill, which returns to the Commons on Tuesday, will set out how the environment is to be regulated in Britain now EU legislation can be repealed.
The Government has commissioned a task force, led by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, to cut legal red tape on a variety of issues after Brexit, but a coalition of environmental groups has warned ministers that loosening regulation could create hazards such as exposing the public to carcinogens that are banned in EU law.
Officials have previously stressed that any regulatory reforms would “not come at the expense” of environmental standards.
The environmental groups, which include the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, say the new Environment Bill would “loosen the nuts and bolts of regulation and enforcement” and risk more cancer-causing chemicals on UK shelves.
The groups point to apples in Australia, which contain 100 times more Malathion – a carcinogen – than fruit in the UK. They argue that loosening regulation could in future allow shops to sell cosmetics containing formaldehyde, which is banned in the EU but allowed in the United States.
Greener UK, which represents the groups, said the Government should strengthen the rules around the “precautionary principle”, which bans products unless they are proven to be safe rather than allowing them until they are proven harmful.
Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s chief executive, said: “The UK has a long tradition of utilising science and experts to get the best results.
“The precautionary principle is basically just common sense – that you should not approve the use of something new until you understand the impacts it will have on people and on the environment. It is vital that we do not lose this crucial safeguard.”