Industry Welcomes GM Food Disclosure Standard Proposed Rule

Industry Welcomes GM Food Disclosure Standard Proposed Rule FMI GMA USDA
Some of USDA's proposed bioengineered food label designs

The publication of a proposed rule that would provide consistency in the disclosure of information regarding bioengineered or genetically modified foods was welcomed by representatives of the food industry.

“FMI supported passage of legislation to bring a clear and consistent national standard to provide customers with information regarding bioengineered food products, noted Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI). “Since Congress forged the bipartisan compromise in 2016, we have been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under both the Obama and Trump Administrations to help move this process forward in a way that provides consistency and clarity to customers across our membership of 33,000 retail food stores.”

According to Sarasin, FMI’s efforts in this cause include joining with farmers, manufacturers and retailers “to provide accurate, simple and unbiased information to our customers,” with a focus on consumer education through such means as SmartLabel.

The digital technology “allows customers to access detailed information about products 24/7,” said Sarasin. “Companies are projecting that 30,000 total products will use SmartLabel by June of 2018, including food, beverage, personal care, household and pet care products. Customers can find detailed product information, including GE disclosure, in several ways, including by scanning a QR code on the package; using a web search; accessing a participating company’s web site; calling a 1-800 number displayed on the package; and accessing the SmartLabel app.”

“Our industry is delivering on the promise of ingredient transparency,” affirmed the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which developed SmartLabel with input from FMI. The effort “provides more information than could ever fit on a package label on more than 25,000 food, beverage, personal care and household items, and more products are added every week to Digital disclosure by scanning an electronic link on a package is one of the ways to provide the bioengineered ingredient information required by the federal law.”

GMA also noted that it “will be working with our member companies to review and develop comments on the draft rule and the USDA questions.” 

"Independent grocers take pride in the important role they play in their communities and the ability to meet the needs of their customers by providing a variety of safe and quality food choices," observed Greg Ferrara, EVP of advocacy, public relations and member services at the Arlington-based National Grocers Association. "On behalf of the independent supermarket industry, we will continue to analyze the proposed rule and work with our industry and government partners for a final rule that provides consumers with access to information that is consistent and transparent.”

Food Ingredients News has reported, however, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t expect to meet the July deadline to create the new rule, with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue admitting that “we’re not as close as I’d like” to doing so. The holdup appears to be due to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB), which still needs to review the GMO labeling rules.

For its part, FMI plans to roll out a consumer education campaign next month that will “[create] a mechanism to share information that goes well beyond that included on the label and well beyond whether the product contains ingredients that result from genetic engineering,” explained Sarasin.

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