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Chefs warned on genetic foods





New rules on the menu for restaurant labelling
By Nick Hopkins
Guardian (London) Monday February 1, 1999

Restaurants will soon have to start labelling meals which contain certain
kinds of genetically modified food, it was disclosed yesterday.

The Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, said the scheme, which could be
implemented within weeks, was important because it defended the consumer's
right not to eat such produce.

The department has indicated that the new regulations will apply "from the
Savoy Grill to the chip van on the A34".

Mr Brown has been considering ways of enforcing a European Union directive
passed last September which called on caterers and food suppliers to tell
customers which of their foods contained GM soya and maize.

The directive was largely ignored in the UK because it was
self-regulating.

Last week, Worcestershire Trading Standards Services published a survey
showing that, of 200 items sampled at random, one third contained GM soya
or maize. But only one of the foods carried a warning label.

Now the Government is poised to introduce penalties for companies which
refuse to label properly.

Food suppliers and restaurateurs have been warned that new laws could be
passed "within weeks rather than months" and that menus may have to be
changed accordingly.

Mr Brown said during an interview on ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme:
"There are regulations under consideration now and labelling has a very
important part to play in that.

"There is a European Union directive under consideration and we are
currently framing it so that it works in United Kingdom law."

The department added: "We have been consulting caterers and other
organisations for many weeks over the best way to introduce the scheme.

"There are practical difficulties... some restaurants change their menus
from day to day, and we don't want to put them to too much trouble. But
consumers must be told what they are eating.

"We will be announcing our final proposals shortly."

Friends of the Earth criticised the scheme as inadequate and
unenforceable.

"The Government needs to introduce a sophisticated tracing scheme to
monitor a crop from the moment it is harvested.

"How will restaurateurs really know where the produce has come from?"

The group called for an immediate five-year ban on genetically modified
ingredients.

"All food outlets will be forced to go to enormous trouble and expense
because of the greed of the big biotech companies who are forcing their
unwanted genetically modified produce on to the British people.

"The Government shouldn't allow this ridiculous situation to happen.
Rather than pushing ahead with this expensive and inadequate labelling
scheme, the Government should ban GM ingredients for at least five years."




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