Genetically modified food is being sold illegally in Britain without
labels, a survey by the Independent on Sunday has found. Unwitting
shoppers are buying ready-made meals and snacks - from breakfast
cereals to tortilla chips - which do not mention that they contain
genetically modified products.
Trading standards officers from around the country have been carrying
out random tests on food to see if labelling laws, which state that GM
ingredients should be identified on the packet, are being followed.
About a third of tests carried out for trading standards departments
revealed food containing unidentified GM ingredi- ents. Many
apparently GM-free snacks and meals, particularly ones sold as health
foods, were found with GM ingredients.
The Independent on Sunday is campaigning for clear, accurate labelling
on all GM foods, and the results of this survey have prompted food
groups and MPs to call for labelling and tougher testing. "Consumers
have been promised that food containing GM ingredients will be
labelled, but here is evidence that companies are not following the
law," said Sue Dibb of the Food Commission. "Companies have no excuse
In East Sussex, council tests on food containing maize and soya found
two brands of toffee-covered popcorn contained GM soya in the
ingredients although the labels suggested that the snacks were
At Denbigh in North Wales, soya mince sold with no GM label was found
to contain engineered soya.
In Oxfordshire, trading standards officers took 20 samples of products
containing conventional maize and soya. They found that four out of 10
"GM-free" soya products, including bacon-flavour soya chips, soya-bean
curd and textured soya protein, had genetically modified soya beans.
Their tests also showed that three out of 10 randomly tested foods
containing maize, which did not include a GM label, had GM
ingredients. One was a brand of tortilla chips containing maize grown
in the United States.
Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said: "We can
have no confidence in the labelling of GM food. The Government really
must act to ensure that labelling is based on what goes in the food so
the consumers can have confidence in what they are eating."
In Britain, under European Union law, all foods containing GM
ingredients are supposed to be labelled. But, because the Government
has not yet finalised its own labelling regulations, there are no
penalties in force for companies that break the law.
"We believe in consumers exercising an informed choice and consumers
should have accurate information and the ability to exercise that
choice," said Alan Street, chief executive of the Institute of Trading
The tests were carried out for trading standards departments by public
laboratories, including the Central Scientific Laboratory run by the
Ministry of Agriculture, which have devised a way of detecting
genetically modified DNA.
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