Food Law News - UK - 1999

18 March 1999: GM FOODS - GM Labelling-Rooker Puts New Powers On The Menu

MAFF News Release (95/99), 18 March 1999

GM Labelling - Rooker Puts New Powers On The Menu

Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker today announced the introduction of new powers aimed at enforcing an EC Regulation on the labelling of foodstuffs containing genetically modified soya or maize.

And in a move in which the UK leads the way in Europe, the controls will also apply to restaurants, cafes, bakers and delicatessens. The new measures mean that outlets selling foods containing GM material that is not properly labelled may be prosecuted and fined up to 5,000.

In a Parliamentary answer Mr Rooker said:
"I have laid before Parliament this morning the Food Labelling (Amendment) Regulations 1999, which will come into force tomorrow. These provide the means for Local Authorities to be able to enforce the EC Regulation that requires all foods containing genetically modified soya or maize ingredients to be clearly labelled. This Regulation, which took effect last September, applies to all foods produced and labelled from that date.

"The Government is determined that consumers should be able to choose whether or not to eat genetically modified foods. This includes foods sold in restaurants, cafes and takeaways and not just that available from supermarkets. The UK is the first member state in Europe to take steps to ensure that consumers eating out will have the same right to choose whether or not to consume foods containing GM ingredients as those buying from shops.

"As a measure of how seriously the Government takes the right of consumers to have clear, reliable information about the GM content of the food they buy we have decided not to wait the customary 21 days for these Regulations to come into force but to make them fully effective from tomorrow."

The EC Regulation 1139/98, containing detailed rules on labelling of GM soya and maize, came into force on 1 September 1998. This requires all foods containing ingredients produced from genetically modified soya and maize to be clearly labelled to indicate this except whether neither protein nor DNA resulting from the modification is present.

The Food Labelling (Amendment) Regulations 1999 provide for the enforcement of the EC Regulation, and penalties for non compliance. This legislation applies to Monsanto's GM soya and Novartis' GM maize, which were previously approved under EC Directive 90/220 concerning the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment. Any new GM foods would need approval under the EC Novel Foods Regulation 258/97, which include labelling requirements.

In introducing the requirements for catering and other appropriate premises, the Regulations provide flexibility in the way that the information is made available and a six-month lead-in time for businesses in order to reprint menus.

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