Wednesday, January 2, 2019

GMO Labeling Law is Out & I Reviewed it For You

The Federal Register document on National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards has arrived.  I read through it and will share the important points here with you.

The national bioengineered food disclosure standard  or NBFDS

The Ten Important Points Covered Below Are:   

• The Name 
• How The Govt. Identifies a Bioengineered Food
• The Types of Food That Have to Be Labeled
• Which Foods are Exempt
• Demonstrating Existance or Non-existance of a Bioengineered Substance
• List of Bioengineered Foods 
• Threshold for Contaminated Product
• Label and Labeling Placement
• Enforcement or Should We Say Lack of Enforcement
• When The Labeling Begins

The Name 

You know genetically modified food as GMOs or genetically modified organisms. Most people in the United States use the term genentically modified organism. However, in research the title used for GMOs is genetically engineered or bioengineered food.  Bioengineered food is what the govt. is using and what you will see on labeling. So don't look for GMO, look for bioengineered food.

How the Govt. Identifies a Bioengineered Food/Substance?

A food that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro
recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.

The Types of Food That Have to Be Labeled

Bioengineered substances that humans consume. Animal food was specifically mentioned to be left out. It was not omitted by accident. Additionally, those animals who are fed bioengineered food and then fed to you are also not included  even though RoundUp used on many bioengineered crops and fed to animals is known to accumulate in animal tissue. Therefore most consumers would want to know if RoundUp Ready soy or RoundUp Ready corn was fed to the steer, pig or chicken they are consuming. However, that is not going to happen. 

Besides meat being excluded, so are eggs. Chewing gum was included as well as items used for drink, dietary supplements, processing aids and enzymes. Distilled spirits, wines and malt beverages are not subject to this labeling law, with the exception of wines with less than 7% alcohol by volume and beers brewed without malted barley and hops. Yes, it seems weird but this has to do with the agencies and rules already responsible for labeling these items. I doubt you want the details. (Trying to keep this short so you will read it and pass it on.)

If the food has multiple ingredients listed on the label it comes under this law only if the most predominant ingredient (by weight and first on list) would be subject to the labeling requirements or if the most predominant ingredient of the food is broth, stock, water or a similar solution and the second-most predominant Ingredient in the product would be subject to the labeling requirement. This means if a multi-ingredient food product that contains meat, poultry, or egg product (none of which need to be labeled) is the first ingredient of the ingredient list on the food label, it would not be subject to the national bioengineered food disclosure standard (NBFDS) rules even if it contained other ingredients that were bioengineered. An example given for the ruling is if a multi-ingreidnet product had pork as the first ingredient and bioengineered corn as the second ingredient on the label, it would not be subject to this ruling and would not have to be labeled as bioengineered. Seafood except for catfish and meat such as venison and rabbit are subject to the NBFDS and therefore if a multi-ingredient product contained one of these as the predominant ingredient that product would be subject to declaring any and all  items that were bioengineered.

Refined bioengineered foods don't count: For refined foods that are derived from bioengineered crops, no disclosure is required if the food does not contain detectable modified genetic material. Basically, this means if you started with bioengineered corn but now you  have modified it chemically to the point that it is so refined that you can't tell the product started as bioengineered corn, it does not have to be labeled. In fact, just the processing records can be used to prove lack of bioengineered material for some processed foods as it is known the end product is no longer anything similar to the food it started with and therefore does not test positive as a bioengineered food any more. This means it would not require additional laboratory testing to prove the lack of modified genetic material.

How Existance or Non-existance of a bioengineered Substance is Demonstrated

A companies records can be used to  demonstrate that modified genetic material is not detectable.
 1) The company can demonstrate that modified genetic material is not detectable with records verifying that the food is sourced from a non-bioengineered crop or non-bioengineered salmon.
2) Companies can demonstrate that modified genetic material is not detectable in the food with records verifying that the food has been subjected to a refinement process
“validated”to render modified genetic material undetectable.(What we talked about above.)
3) Testing can also be used to show GM material is not detectable.

List of currently known bioengineered foods 

This list includes bioengineered foods that may be produced in other countries.

The list: alfalfa, apple (ArcticTM varieties), canola, corn, cotton, eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties), papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties), pineapple (pink flesh), potato, salmon (AquAdvantage®), soybean, squash (summer), and sugarbeet.

Anyone may submit recommendations about foods that could be added to or deleted from the list at any time. The list will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. Companies have 18 months to change their labels when revisions to the list are made.

If a company has knowledge that they are selling a bioengineered food that is not on the list, they must still label their food as bioengineered.

Exempt Foods

Incidental additives that are present in food at an insignificant level and do not have any technical or functional effect in the food are exempt from certain labeling requirements under the FDCA and are also being exempted here for what appears to be a matter of consistency in labeling. 
incidental additives are: Substances that have no technical or functional effect but are present in a food by reason of having been incorporated into the food as an ingredient of another food, in which the substance did have a functional or technical effect. An example of incidental additives would be: Substances migrating to food from equipment or packaging or otherwise affecting food that are not food additives. 

With respect to treatment of yeasts, enzymes, or any other microorganisms, AMS agrees that if they qualify as incidental additives that are not required to be labeled as ingredients on a food label, then they do not require disclosure as bioengineered foods. However, bioengineered yeasts, enzymes, and other organisms that do not qualify as incidental additives that are not required to be labeled as ingredients may require disclosure as bioengineered foods unless they meet the requirements of another provision (for instance, by establishing that their modified genetic material is not detectable).

There are exemptions for some establishments. Food served in a restaurant or similar retail food establishment and very small food manufacturers with annual receipts of less than $2.5 million are exempt.

As mentioned previously, food derived from an animal will not be considered a bioengineered food solely because the animal consumed feed produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered substance.

Threshold for Contaminated Product

What if someone accidently buys and sells a bioengineered food as non-bioengineered and does not  label it as bioengineered?

A threshold for the inadvertent or technically unavoidable presence of bioengineered substances of up to five percent (5%) for each ingredient is given as an allowance. However, no such allowance for any bioengineered presence that is intentional is given.

Label And Labeling Placement

The placement of bioengineered disclosure is to be on the information panel, although it can also be on the main panel or for small packaging an alternate panel.

Regulated companies have several disclosure options (text, symbol, electronic or digital link,
and/or text message, with additional options available to small food manufacturers or for small or very small packages.

The product can list text that says it contains a bioengineered product or it can use a symbol.
The black and white adopted symbol can be seen here.  The colored symbol can be seen here. 
You want to make sure you and everyone else knows exactly what this symbol looks like as it was made to look as if it was depicting something beautiful in nature and will likely be ignored by anyone who does not know what the symbol is.In fact they might assume it is some "green" feature.

The third disclosure option available for regulated entities to use is an electronic or digital
link disclosure. Such a link must be accompanied by the statement “Scan here for more food information” or equivalent language that reflects technological changes. If a regulated entity decides to utilize electronic or scannable technology to convey bioengineered food information, they must also provide options for the consumer to access the disclosure by calling a phone number.

Enforcement (or lack of enforcement) Of This Labeling Rule

This act authorizes AMS to enforce compliance with the standard only through record audits and examinations, hearings, and public disclosure as a summary of the results of audits, examinations, and similar activities. There is no authority to recall any food subject to the labeling rule “on the basis of whether the food lacks a disclosure that the food is bioengineered.”  There are no fines, no ramifications except that any company who is not complying will be known to the public through the public disclosure of the results. The public will simply have to vote with their wallets if they see a company is not complying.

When This Begins

Mandatory compliance begins on January 1, 2022, and all regulated entities must comply with the requirements of the NBFDS beginning on that date. 
There are a couple of places you can read all these sordid details:The Federal Register or This public inspection document also at the federal register.