Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA News Item, 20 June 2003

GM FOOD - Report published on checks on labelling of GM foods

The Food Standards Agency is today publishing a UK report to the European Commission on the EC co-ordinated programme of checks on the labelling of genetically modified foods.

The European Commission requested Member States to conduct checks on certain types of foodstuffs to ensure that, if they contained any genetically modified ingredients, they complied with the appropriate labelling rules. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to co-ordinate the UK element of the EC Programme.
Current EC regulation for GM labelling requires labelling of any GM ingredient (at any percentage) if it has been used intentionally, but allows a 1% threshold for adventitious presence if manufacturers can show that they have attempted to avoid using GM ingredients in their product. Labelling is based on the presence of GM material (DNA or protein).

Of the 91 samples tested for the presence of GM, none contained GM above the 1% limit for adventitious presence. 8 samples contained traces of GM below the 1% threshold for adventitious presence, three of which were labelled ‘GM-Free’. These three were soya textured vegetable protein, soya textured vegetable protein mince, and soya protein isolate.

Samples were tested for GM ingredients in the following proportions: 45 soya; 42 maize, two rapeseed oil and two tomatoes.

Where GM-Free claims were made, local authority representatives visited manufacturers to remind them of their responsibility to ensure that claims made on labels are representative of the contents to avoid misleading consumers. However, there is no specific legislation covering the use of the term GM-Free on food labels, despite calls from the FSA for EC labelling regulations to include the development of a GM-Free label.

Provided that the manufacturers can show that GMOs detected below the 1% threshold are not present intentionally, they are not required to label it on the product. Nevertheless, where any GM was detected, Local Authority representatives ensured that manufacturers were aware of labelling requirements for the use of GM ingredients.

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