SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 140/16

SafeGuardS Baked Fish Fillet

On July 29, 2016 President Obama signed the National Bioengineered Disclosure Law. [1] It amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 which requires the USDA AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service) to develop a national mandatory system for disclosing and labeling of bioengineered food.

What Products And Which Companies Must Comply With This Law?

This law applies to food for human consumption as defined by section 201 of the US Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, “that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature”. In addition, the new law will apply to meat (including siluriformes such as catfish), as well as poultry and processed egg products, if the predominant ingredient is that regulated by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. However, if the predominant ingredient is broth, stock, water or similar then the secondary ingredient would have to be regulated by the food Drug and Cosmetic Act in order for this to apply to the product.

There are exemptions for restaurants and similar retail establishments, as well as for very small businesses.

What Is Being Required?

The new law requires the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS), the department that oversees the organic labeling program, to develop regulations which will require the labeling of bioengineered products, within two years. This disclosure can be performed using a few options:

  1. Text

  2. Symbol (to be determined)

  3. Electronic or digital link, excluding internet website Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) not embedded in the link  

The current electronic or digital link that this law currently refers to is the Quick Response Code (QR Code). This code would enable the customer with a reader, such as an application (app) on smartphone to connect to the link and determine at the point of purchase if the product contains GMO material. The label would state “scan here for more food information” or similar.

Additionally, there is an allowance for small food manufacturers to provide, for example, a phone number with the phrase “call for more food information”. They have an additional year to comply. There are also to be reasonable disclosure options for small and very small packages.

What Does This Mean For The Food Industry?

The USA now has a GMO labeling law that applies uniformly throughout all States and Territories. The law does require record keeping and violation of the law is a prohibited act so product seizure, court injunction or other actions such as fines can still be taken by the USDA AMS through the Justice Department.

SGS is committed to keeping you informed of regulatory news and developments. Leveraging our global network of laboratories and food experts, SGS provides a comprehensive range of food safety and quality solutions, including analytical testing, audits, certifications, inspections and technical support. We continually invest in our world class testing capabilities and state-of-the-art technology to help you reduce risks, and improve food safety and quality. For further information please visit our website

For enquiries, please contact:

James Cook
Food Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager

t: +01 973 461 1493

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