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IDFA Calls for Transparency and Consistency in Bioengineered Standard

Jul 05, 2018

In comments filed this week with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, IDFA supported the position that animal products like milk are not subject to the disclosure requirements solely because the cows consumed feed from a bioengineered substance, such as corn silage or soybean meal. In addition, foods with organic certification, produced by very small food manufacturers or sold to restaurants also should be excluded, said IDFA, noting these four exclusions align with the intent of Congress when it passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard Act in 2016.

Overall, IDFA called for a final rule that adheres to consumer expectations for transparency, does not disparage the use of bioengineering or stifle food industry innovation, and remains consistent with other standards applied to U.S. food manufacturers.

Refined Ingredients

IDFA called for USDA to develop a single list of bioengineered foods and commodities to help companies comply with the standard and consumers to understand its scope. To meet consumer expectations, IDFA stressed that the rule’s scope should extend to ingredients refined from bioengineered (BE) crops.

“Consumers have increasingly shown an interest in knowing about the source of their food and if BE techniques are used in its production,” IDFA said. “Therefore, we believe that consumers should be provided full transparency about the source of these ingredients regardless of the level of refinement.”

Also in the comments, IDFA covered thresholds and other factors and conditions that would allow for exemptions, such as vitamins, enzymes or incidental additives. Exempting these ingredients, such as incidental additives that don’t require declaration in the food labels ingredient statement and enzymes, would provide consistency, aligning with FDA food labeling regulations and with the overturned Vermont labeling law.

Consumer Research

Because consumer acceptance and understanding of the terms are critical, IDFA said USDA should conduct consumer research to determine the “single, uniform bioengineering term that is most appropriate” for the standard. IDFA also commented on the icons proposed by USDA, saying the final symbol should be “neutral, objective and non-disparaging” and none of the three options fit that description.

Compliance Date

Because the comment period closed July 3, only weeks from the expected date for the final rule, it’s not likely that USDA will meet the July 29 deadline for issuing a final rule. As a result, IDFA is no longer calling for harmonizing the compliance date with the Nutrition Facts label changes that are due for most companies in January 2020.

Instead, IDFA asked for the compliance date to be set 24 months from the effective date of the final rule to allow companies sufficient time to analyze the requirements, manage costs, consider reformulations and, if necessary, create new labels. IDFA also supported USDA’s proposal to allow companies to use up existing labeling for an additional 24 months after the compliance date.

Read IDFA’s comments here.

For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory affairs, at cfrye@idfa.org.

 
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