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LABELLING OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD

This leaflet has been prepared for the guidance of traders by the Northern Counties Chief Trading Standards Officers Group. It is not an authoritative document on the law and is only intended for guidance. 

 

WHAT FOODS ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED? (GM)

At present, only GM tomato paste, GM soya and GM maize are available for use in the manufacture of foods or as foods in their own right. Currently the food Labelling Regulations only make special provisions for GM soya and GM maize.

 

LABELLING OF PRE-PACKED FOOD

Pre-packed food must state in the list of ingredients any soya or maize, which has been genetically modified, for example:

Soya flour (produced from genetically modified soya)

Alternatively the information can be given as a footnote to the ingredients list denoted by an asterisk, for example:

Soya*flour

*genetically modified

there are more detailed requirements for compound ingredients or ingredients named by category (e.g. generic names), however these all require the genetically modified component to be labelled clearly using the words "genetically modified" in full.

 

ARE THERE ANY EXEMPTIONS?

Additives, flavourings and extraction solvents are exempt from labelling, as are products which have been highly processed and do not contain any protein or DNA resulting from genetic modification in the final product. Examples are the additive soya lecithin (E322), which is a commonly used emulsifier or refined soya or maize oil. Further suggestions for exempted status are soy sauce, maltodextrins, glucose, glucose syrup, protein hydrolysates.

N.B. the exemption for additives is being reviewed and may be subject to change at a later date.

 

SPECIAL PROVISIONS FOR CATERING SALES (ETC.)

The legislation applies to all foods which contain genetically modified soya or maize and the required information must, subject to the above exemptions, be given to the ultimate consumer. As such, sales at restaurants, cafes, pubs, takeaways and even mobile burger bars etc. are covered, as are sales of non-prepacked and prepacked for direct sale items at delicatessens, bakeries etc. The Regulations provide two basic alternatives for getting the information across to the customer.

Any food sold on the premises must be labelled with the relevant "genetically modified" particulars on a label, menu, ticket or notice, for example:

"Vegetarian Cottage Pie (contains genetically modified soya)".

A general notice can be displayed giving an indication that some of the food sold on the premises contains genetically modified soya or maize, and that further information is available from staff. If this option is chosen, there must be an established procedure for staff to be trained and updated about those foods which contain GM ingredients. There is no prescribed form for this notice but it should be displayed prominently, at the point where customers choose their food.

"Some of the food sold on these premises contain genetically modified soya and/or maize. Our staff would be happy to provide further information on request".

 

WHAT ABOUT GM FREE CLAIMS?

Until there is an accepted definition of "GM free" or similar claims, it is strongly recommended that no such claims are made as they are likely to be misleading

 

TIMETABLE FOR COMPLIANCE

The requirements for pre-packed food came into force immediately, with the proviso that foods prepared prior to 1st September 1998 would not be covered. The provisions relating to non-prepacked and catering sales, allow for a six month lead in time until 19th September 1999.

 

WHAT STEPS SHOULD I TAKE TO COMPLY?

The following recommendations are made?

Manufacturers/packers – you should contact all raw material/ingredient suppliers to obtain written confirmation whether any GM soya or maize has been used. Keep records of your enquiries and review the situation periodically, given that a supplier may change the source of his raw materials. Larger manufacturers may wish to consider submitting samples for analysis.

Caterers etc. – you should check all incoming products and contact suppliers to seek details of any products which contain GM soya or maize. You should review this periodically. Keep a record of this check e.g. retain a label file. Note any which declare GM ingredients. Ensure that relevant information about GM ingredients is transferred onto menus, labels etc. If you provide outside catering, make sure your sample menus etc. contain the relevant information. If you are choosing the general notice approach, you must make sure staff are updated on the latest position with regard to GM ingredients that you use.

N.B. if you choose the latter option, you should keep documented staff records.

If you have done a thorough check of all incoming foodstuffs and can establish that they do not contain GM soya or maize, it is not necessary to change menus or display notices. However it is recommended that you have written confirmation from all your suppliers about the status of any soya or maize ingredients.

 


North Yorkshire County Council

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