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The USDA AMS has finalized the US national bioengineered food disclosure standard. The requirement for food labeling of genetically modified products and ingredients will allow the US consumers to have knowledge of what is and is not produced from genetic modification.

SAFEGUARDS | Food NO. 012/19

SafeGuardS lady looking at label in grocery store

The United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS), on December 21, 2018, issued the final regulations for the US national bioengineered food disclosure standard [1].

The implementation of this regulation on February 19, 2019 will allow those consumers that want to know if a product was produced using bioengineering or has ingredients that were produced using bioengineering technologies. Currently, 64 countries have labeling requirements relating to disclosure of whether a product and/or ingredient has been produced using genetic engineering.

The USDA AMS has defined bioengineered food and substance (matter) 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. This final regulation established how this is to be disclosed, any exemptions to this disclosure and the record keeping requirements. The implementation date for this disclosure will be January 1, 2020 except for small food manufacturers for whom the implementation date will be January 1, 2021. These dates correspond with the US food and Drug Administration compliance dates for the new nutrition facts panel requirements [2]. Mandatory compliance date is January 1, 2022.

Disclosure

The USDA AMS is proposing alternatives of how this disclosure needs to be presented. This of course can be disclosed through text such as “contains a bioengineered ingredient” or “bioengineered food”.

Highly processed products derived from genetic modified materials such as sugar or oils can voluntarily state “derived from bioengineering. This can be disclosed via a symbol which includes the words bioengineered or derived from bioengineering. This can be disclosed through a digit format such as via scan code or text code. Small businesses have the additional option of a toll-free phone number and website on the packaging for the consumer to contact the company for the information. The final rule also states that a food product containing ingredients for which 5% or less of each ingredient by weight contains inadvertent bioengineered materials will not be required to state it is bioengineered.

Exemptions

The law itself excludes meat, poultry, dairy and egg products that come from animals that have eaten bioengineered feed. This rule excludes meat (including siluriformes), poultry and processed egg products unless the most predominate ingredient is subjected to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act labeling requirements, unless a broth, stock, water or similar is the first predominate ingredient then it the second predominate ingredient.

Additionally excluded are alcoholic beverages because they come under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. Other alcoholic beverages, such as wines or alcoholic apple cider with less than 7%, alcohol or beer not brewed from malted barley and hops are not excluded. 

Food service establishments, similar retail service establishments and very small businesses are excluded from this disclosure requirement. Also, products that are certified organic as recognized by USDA AMS as, based on those regulations, they are not bioengineered products and nor have ingredients.

Record keeping

Simply, companies are required to keep records for two years of the bioengineered status and produce these records upon regulatory request and within five days of any request.

SGS has ISO 17205 accredited Genetically Engineered/BE testing facilities throughout the world that can perform screening and specific event testing. There are Non-GMO/GE audit certification programs available, Transparency-One for traceability and record keeping solutions and a label review compliance team to assure this and other label compliance.

Next step:

Suppliers or manufacturers are recommended to contact their local SGS office to obtain one or more of the many SGS solutions that will enable operations to remain in compliance with this and future regulatory changes.

For enquiries, please contact:

James Cook
Global Food Inspection Technical Manager
t: +01 973-461-1493

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