Food Law News - UK - 1999

19 March 1999: GM FOODS - Enforcement Powers for GM Food Labelling now in Place

MAFF News Release (99/99), 19 March 1999

Enforcement Powers for GM Food Labelling now in Place

Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker reminded food retailers and caterers that new powers enforcing an EC Regulation on the labelling of foodstuffs containing genetically modified soya or maize came into effect today.

Mr Rooker said:
"The Government is committed to ensuring the safety of all GM foods approved for sale in the UK and ensuring that consumers are able to make an informed choice. Contrary to the views expressed by some, the Government is not on the defensive. We announced our policy that all foods containing GM material should be clearly labelled as long ago as June 1997. We have been campaigning hard in Europe since then to make this possible. As soon as the EC rules had been agreed last July we announced our intention to extend the EC labelling requirements to include catering establishments. We consulted fully with all interested parties before introducing the new rules which came into effect today."

"We are pressing for additional European legislation to be introduced as a matter of urgency to ensure that Genetically modified food additives and flavouring substances are also clearly labelled. However, as I have made clear on numerous occasions the Government is not in the business of introducing legislation that cannot be enforced."

"It would be wrong for the Government to create the impression that highly refined products such as oils derived from a GM crop differ in any way from those obtained from non-GM crops. Any labelling indicating the presence or absence of such ingredients could not therefore be checked analytically by enforcement authorities."

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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