Food Law News - EU - 1999

1 October 1999: GM FOODS - GM Food Labelling

MAFF Letter, 1 October 1999

GM Food Labelling

The European Commission issued proposals on de-minimis thresholds and the labelling of GM additives on the 30 September. The Commission intends to put both proposals to a vote at the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs on 21 October.

Revision of 1139/98 - De minimis Principles There are several important amendments proposed to regulation 1139/98.

Article 1(1) will require the labelling of food supplied to mass caterers (as defined in the food labelling Directive 79/112).

Article 1(2)a will introduce a de-minimis threshold. The proposal makes clear that such a threshold will only apply to ingredients obtained from non-GM sources. There will be no threshold for supplies obtained form sources of unknown origin. Companies would need to demonstrate to the satisfaction of enforcement authorities that their ingredients are of non-GM origin. It is possible that the use of clearly documented and appropriately audited identity preservation systems could satisfy this requirement. The proposal also makes it clear that all steps should be taken to keep the level of adventitious contamination in non-GM supplies to a minimum. The level proposed for such a threshold is 1%, although in practice the need to provide proof that ingredients are of non-GM origin should ensure that actual levels are kept well below this figure.

Article 1(2)b makes provision for the development of a 'negative list' of ingredients containing neither protein or DNA, although the content of such is being considered by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre at Ispra.

Article 2 will bring the regulation into effect within 20 days of it's publication in the Official Journal. If adopted on 21 October, without change to this requirement, it is likely that the revisions will come into effect around the end of this year.

Labelling of GM additives

The Commission proposal contains a number of differences from the draft proposal circulated for comment on 15 July. Most of the amendments are editorial although I would draw your attention to the following changes:

Article 1(2) has been amended to make clear that all additives falling within the scope of Council Directive 89/107/EEC and/or flavourings falling within the scope of Council Directive 88/388/EEC are covered by the Commission's proposal. Therefore, for example, carriers for food additives are covered but processing aids are not.

Article 3 no longer contains the sentence "De minimis threshold to be considered later". The Commission has indicated that the threshold level will probably follow whatever is agreed in respect of Regulation 1139/98. If a level is not proposed and agreed on 21 October, there may be a need for a supplementary Regulation.

Article 4 has been amended to make clear that, as an alternative to including the indications "produced from genetically modified..." and "genetically modified" in the list of ingredients, these indications may be added, clearly visible, in a footnote to the list of ingredients, linked to the additive or the flavouring concerned by an asterisk.

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