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Genetically Modified Foods

What the trader should know

Information on this page covers the requirements for labelling foods or providing consumers with information about foods which contain genetically modified soya or maize.

The following details should answer your queries, however for specific information and assistance please contact Environmental Health Staff in the Food & Occupational Health Section, Allerdale Borough Council or Cumbria County Council Trading Standards Office, Tel:  01900 325980.

What legislation must I comply with?

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 as amended by the Food Labelling (Amendment) Regulations 1999 came into force on 19 March 1999 for pre-packed foods, and for non-pre-packed food and food pre-packed for direct sale on 19 September 1999.

What does the legislation require?

The law requires that the intending purchaser is informed at the point of choosing the food as to whether the food they are purchasing contains genetically modified soya or maize. Every business selling food to the final consumer must comply with this legislation.

What are the labelling requirements for caterers?

Specific labelling can be used on individual menus or general menu boards which indicates which meals contain genetically modified ingredients by the use of the words "produced from genetically modified soya/maize" under the description or listing for the food or meal concerned.

As a further alternative a general notice can be used, e.g. "some of the food sold here may contain ingredients produced from genetically modified soya/maize or both. Please ask our staff for further information".

If this alternative is to be used your staff must be able to advise consumers appropriately at all times and you must have an established system which will ensure that this can be achieved.

What are the labelling requirements for pre-packed foods?

(NB: Foods produced and labelled before 1 September 1998 are exempt. Also, concentrated tomato purée is not included within the requirements of the legislation).

If the food bears a list of ingredients the ingredient itself can be listed as, e.g. genetically modified soya or soya (genetically modified).

For a compound ingredient the phrase "produced from genetically modified soya" should appear after the name of the compound ingredients.

As an alternative an asterisk can be used after the words soya/maize in the ingredients list provided that the phrase "produced from genetically modified [soya] [maize]" appears prominently displayed at the end of the ingredients list. The expression "genetically modified" may alternatively appear as a footnote in certain circumstances.

If the food does not bear a list of ingredients the phrase "produced from genetically modified [soya] [maize]" must appear clearly on the product label.

Please note that the abbreviation "GM" cannot be used to substitute for the words "genetically modified" which must appear in full.

What about claims such as "genetically modified free"?

It would be advisable not to use this claim unless you were entirely sure that it is correct. You would be expected to have made all reasonable enquiries of your suppliers as to whether you were being supplied with non-genetically modified foods/ingredients.

How do I know whether my products contain Genetically Modified Soya and Maize?

If it is a pre-packed product for a caterer, which is sold on as such to the consumer, the information as to whether it contains genetically modified soya or maize should be clearly indicated in the ingredients list (provided it was packed after 1 September 1998).

In the case of food purchased without an ingredients list showing this information, e.g. loose/bulk items, the information will have to be sought from the supplier of the goods.

In order to be able to show that due diligence has been exercised in the event that the food could contain genetically modified soya or maize, you should always insist that information is provided by your supplier as to whether or not genetically modified soya/maize is present. It would be advisable to have this information in writing.

How do I keep my staff informed?

In the case of a caterer or retailer who wishes to use general notices, the law requires that you establish a procedure for providing information to your staff which indicates to them which foods contain genetically modified soya (or maize). [It is desirable, but it is not a legal requirement to have this procedure in writing to help you demonstrate compliance].

You will need to obtain information from your suppliers as to whether genetically modified soya (or maize) is present in the foods that you buy.

Do I have to keep all my staff informed?

In the case of a caterer or retailer who wishes to use general notices, you will have to have at least one of your staff members available during opening hours and trained to answer any customer requests for information.

Will I be expected to have my foods analysed for Genetically Modified Soya or Maize?

Unless you are a manufacturer or packer you will not generally be required to have your ingredients or foods analysed. However, you are expected to be able to demonstrate that you have made all reasonable enquiries with your supplier as to whether genetically modified soya or maize is being supplied to you.

How will requirements be enforced?

Local authorities through their Trading Standards or Environmental Health Officers will advise on the requirements. Analytical tests exist to detect whether foods have been genetically modified. Officers may take random samples for analysis. Random inspection visits will also be made to check that information provided by notices is given or that staff can accurately provide information verbally on request.

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0303 123 1702

Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ