The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a FAQ aimed at manufacturers, following up on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard regulations issued December 2018. The new rules, which will be phased in from 2020 through 2022, are intended to provide consumers with more information about the food they eat by requiring food manufacturers, importers and certain retailers to disclose whether food offered for retail sale is bioengineered or uses bioengineered ingredients.
The USDA's list of food products covered by these rules includes:
- Apple (Arctic™ varieties)
- Eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties)
- Papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties)
- Pineapple (pink flesh varieties)
- Salmon (AquAdvantage®)
- Squash (summer)
Even if a food is not presently included on this list, regulated manufacturers whose records show that a food they are selling is bioengineered will be required to make appropriate disclosure of that food. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service will update the list each year, making updates if necessary through the federal rulemaking process.
Industry Responds To Rules
The law firm Keller and Heckman LLP, in an article in the National Law Review, said that the USDA action has raised questions for the food industry, such as a manufacturer's obligations defined in the "validated refining process" described by the USDA. When food is processed using the validated process or when food is tested to confirm that genetically modified material is not present, labeling would not be required. As Keller and Heckman noted, there is little information in the regulations defining what constitutes a validated refining process and what testing would be acceptable.
Details Of The New Rules
To assist manufacturers in navigating these new regulations, here are a few key provisions mentioned in the USDA FAQ document:
How long can labels that are not compliant with the Standard remain on grocery store shelves? The USDA rules have a mandatory compliance date of Jan. 1, 2022. By that date, all foods being sold must be labeled in compliance with the new standards.
Who must comply? Food manufacturers, importers and certain retailers who label food for retail sale would be subject to these new USDA regulations. The law does not apply, however, to restaurants and similar retail establishments such as cafeterias, food trucks, airplanes, etc. or very small food manufacturers that have annual receipts of less than $2.5 million.
The law does include dietary supplements in the definition of covered foods, so manufacturers and importers of dietary supplements must comply with the disclosure requirements, as well.
How does the USDA define bioengineered? The USDA said bioengineered foods are those which contain detectable genetic material modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.
If you're in the process of updating your product labels to keep up with government regulations, a helpful place to begin is by viewing our high-quality label printers at Argon Technology's U.S. store or Canada page.