EU label laws

Will the label tell me if the food is GM?

Any intentional use of GM ingredients at any level must be labelled.
“In the EU, if a food contains or consists of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or contains ingredients produced from GMOs, this must be indicated on the label. For GM products sold 'loose', information must be displayed immediately next to the food to indicate that it is GM.” (Food Standards Agency)
EU regulation 1830/2003 which came into force in April 2004 requires that ANY GM content in food and feed carry a GM label. This is regardless of whether the ingredients have been processed to eliminate GM protein or DNA, such as in the case of oil, lecithin, sugar syrups or starch.

Exceptions to this are:
  • products produced with GM processing aids, such as cheese made with enzymes from GM microbes, do not have to be labelled
  • products such as milk, meat and eggs from animals fed on GM animal feed do not have to be labelled
  • accidental presence of GM at a level of less than 0.9% of an approved GM ingredient need not be labelled.
So, up to 0.9% of accidental GM is routinely present and unlabelled in my food?

No.

The intentional use of GM ingredients at any level must be labelled.

Manufacturers can't just dilute an ingredient down to below 0.9% to avoid labelling, nor can they decide not to label just because there's not much GM there. They are required to demonstrate due diligence using a clear paper trail, to show that they know what is in the ingredients they are using, have proof of what is in the ingredients they are using, and tell their customers.

Products may be exempt from labelling requirements only IF the supplier can demonstrate by means of analysis and paper records that the GM presence is below 0.9% AND that the presence is adventitious or technically unavoidable.

The conditions under which a product whose GM content is under 0.9% can be legally exempted from labelling are rarely likely to be fulfilled.

There is zero tolerance for any GM variety that has not been approved, and these cannot be imported into the EU.

(Note. EU labelling rules on GM are routinely misrepresented by the media, by politicians and by industry. The impression given is that the EU has a threshold of 0.9% below which GM content need not be labelled. This has lead to a belief that the law allows GM to circulate freely at low levels.)

SOURCES:
  • GM Freeze, December 2009
  • GM food and feed, and traceability and labelling of GMOs: Guidance notes on the regulations, Food Standards Agency, 2.08.07, www.food.gov.uk
  • Will the label tell me if the food is GM? www.eatwell.gov.uk

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