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3-Food: Irish Food Safety Authority releases GE food survey

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TITLE:  GMO Survey Finds Some Misleading Labelling Says Food Safety
        Authority of Ireland
SOURCE: Food Safety Authority of Ireland
DATE:   Apr 29, 2003

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GMO Survey Finds Some Misleading Labelling Says Food Safety Authority of

Results of a Genetically Modified (GM) Food Survey released today by the
Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) reveal that a small section of
the food industry is not providing accurate labelling on their products.
A total of 75 foods including breakfast cereals, baby foods, dried soya
products as well as soya and maize flour products were tested in the
survey. Twelve of the 75 foods surveyed were found to contain low levels
of GM ingredients. Although the GM ingredients identified were authorised
for food use within the EU, 7 of the 12 products (58%) that contained GM
ingredients were inaccurately labelled to indicate that they had no GM
ingredients. The FSAI has been in contact with manufacturers to make them
aware of the relevant legislation and their responsibilities under the law.

According to Mr Alan Reilly, Deputy Chief Executive, FSAI, labelling that
could mislead the purchaser to a material degree could be considered to
be in breach of the EU Food Labelling Directive. He did stress however,
that the GM Food Survey 2002 does show a very high level of compliance
with EU GM food legislation in Ireland and that there are no health
implications arising from these results. This is purely an issue of
enabling consumers to make informed choices about the food they purchase.

"Unfortunately a small minority of food manufacturers continue to mislead
consumers by using labels that indicate or suggest that the food contains
no GM ingredients, when in fact they do. Some of these labels were placed
on foods even though the manufacturers were aware that small amounts of
GM ingredients were present. It is unacceptable trade practice and we
have made our views known to the relevant parties," said Mr Reilly.

The 12 samples found to contain GM ingredients had less than the
threshold of 1% which triggers mandatory GM labelling. However, labels on
5 of those GM positive products indicated they contained no GM
ingredients, 1 product had an organic label while another carried both
organic and GM-free labels. EU legislation governing the labelling,
presentation and advertising of foodstuffs is clear in its stipulation
that food labels must not mislead the public on the composition or
production methods of a food, or make false claims as to the properties
of a food.

Speaking at the announcement today, Dr Pat O'Mahony, Chief Specialist in
Biotechnology, FSAI, said "There is no justification for the inaccurate
labelling of a food as GM-free. Industry is entitled to use legitimate
strategies, such as labelling, to gain a market advantage, but
responsibility for the accuracy of these labels rests solely with them,"
he maintains. "The persistence of misleading labelling, some on brands
that were highlighted by previous FSAI surveys, is a cause for concern.
New legislation being developed by the European Commission will place a
greater responsibility on the industry to be honest and accurate in its
labelling of highly refined GM-derived foods such as oils and sugars
where the GM origin cannot be scientifically verified. This new
legislation may lead to the authorisation of more GM foods for the EU
market place in the near future and we need to be confident that consumer
choice will not be jeopardised by small sections of the industry".

The FSAI carries out regular surveys to assess the level of compliance
with the GM food regulations and uses the opportunity to inform the
industry of its legal obligations and responsibilities. In light of the
results of this survey, the FSAI plans to carry out a more focused survey
later this year with a strong emphasis on the mislabelling problems
identified, and action may be taken against offenders.

GM Food Survey 2002 (PDF format) [download at web page]