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3-Food: British restaurants have to label GM food

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UK waiters must know if foods contain GMOs
March 19, 1999

LONDON, Reuters via NewsEdge Corporation

British waiters will have to be able to tell diners whether their food 
contains genetically modified soya or maize, under new rules announced on 
Thursday by food safety minister Jeff Rooker.
And if they cannot, their employers in any of some 125,000 catering 
establishments of various types, from hot-dog stands to the most 
expensive restaurant in Britain, face fines of up to 5,000 pounds, Rooker 
The same fine is imposed on food shops if they fail to label according to 
the EU rules.
``We don't think it's impractical,'' Rooker told a news conference at the 
ministry of agriculture. ``If a customer wants to ask if any ingredients 
have been genetically modified then they ought to be able to answer,'' he 
A European Union law requiring the labelling of foods containing GM soya 
and maize has been in place since September last year. The British 
government was moving to enforce the EU requirement through British law, 
but at the same time extending it to catering premises.
The government had decided that in the interests of consumer choice there 
should be labels on these foods in restaurants. But after consultation it 
had been decided that full labelling would require too much 
``gold-plating,'' the usual term for a national government extending the 
working of an EU rule.
``We don't want to put a burden on the catering industry, but we've 
already got a system in catering for nut-allergies,'' Rooker said.
A notice in the restaurant would invite people to ask the staff about GM 
ingredients. This process would save reprinting menus according to where 
ingredients had been sourced.
Although the new fines for failing to follow the EU's labelling 
regulation would come in from Friday, the parts involving the catering 
trade would be phased in over six months.
There had to be what Rooker called a 'de minimis,' rule to give a very 
small percentage of GM material which could be present before it had to 
be specified.
The crops involved are Roundup Ready soya developed by Monsanto and a 
maize developed by Novartis Rooker stressed that they are not grown in 
Britain. ``We're not producing any GM food in this country...,'' he said. 
But field-scale trials of GM crops were about to start.
British food retailers, supermarkets in particular, have been quick to 
acknowledge public alarm about GM food, many going further than the 
government's new rules require.
J. Sainsbury Plc said on Wednesday it had set up a consortium of European 
supermarkets to ensure no genetically altered ingredients make it into 
their own-label products. Marks & Spencer said it would stop selling 
genetically modified food in the coming months and ASDA Group Plc (has 
said it wants its own-label range of products to be free of modified 
ingredients. Safeway is working to substitute GM products with 
conventional ones and Tesco said it will clearly label GM products.
((London Newsroom +44 171 542 7928 fax +44 171 542 8077,
[Copyright 1999, Reuters]

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