Go into any any cash-and-carry and you'll see huge drums of 'vegetable oil' for sale. The cheapest ones will probably be 'KTC' brand, and, if you turn them around, you'll find “*produced from genetically modified oilseeds” in very small print on the back label.
Bulk GM 'vegetable oil' is also on sale in larger supermarkets, probably in direct competition with local cash-and-carries. For example, 15 litre metal drums of KTC GM cooking oil have been seen in Tesco, and 5 litre plastic bottles have been spotted in Somerfield.
Any caterer using this oil is required by law to inform his customers at the point of sale. Failure to do so carries a penalty of up to a £5,000 fine or 6 months in jail.
Clearly, caterers are using GM oil or the cash-and-carries wouldn't stock it and the supermarkets certainly wouldn't be competing with them to sell it, but have you ever seen a notice saying “contains GM ingredients” on any menu, menu board, or counter display?
Trading Standards surveys in various regions in England revealed that 25 – 42 % of caterers were using GM oil without declaring it. Take note that all of the outlets decided to change to a non-GM brand rather than put up information signs about GM use on the premises.
You don't need to accept GM oil in any food you buy from a catering outlet:
- Ask the catering establishment you frequent to confirm it doesn't use GM oil. Since it may well not realise it's using a GM make, ask what brand it's using and ask to see the container. If you suspect a cover-up, your local Trading Standards Office will be pleased to check it out (see Note below).
- Keep an eye on the catering refuse left out in the street for uplift: the appearance of GM oil drums outside in the absence of GM notices inside should be reported to your local Trading Standards Office which will be happy to investigate (see Note below).
- Ask catering outlets you use to display a “No GM ingredients” or “No GM cooking oil” window sign (available from www.gmfreeze.org/page.asp?ID=453)
Above all, remember that you, the customer, always holds the winning hand because caterers can't survive without your trust.
Note. Don't worry about unfairly harming a local small business: an offending caterer will not be subject to any penalty providing he or she immediately complies with Trading Standards Office advice.