Food and beverage producers have historically had a variety of unique labeling requirements, enacted with the aim of helping consumers make safe, informed decisions about what they eat. These specialized rules have changed over the years, sometimes subtly but, in certain instances, drastically. A new period of evolving requirements is looming for food brands, but it's unclear exactly what form the latest regulations will take.
Until rules are enforced, there is a great deal of room for changes and clarifications. Even then, after-the-fact alterations are relatively common. This means there is pressure on food producers to stay aware of the evolving legal picture, and to react when the government changes its course. One rule that has merited special attention recently is the upcoming genetically modified organism disclosure requirement.
Senators' Letter Requests More Clarity
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been given a mandate to create a GMO disclosure rule. According to Powder Bulk Solids, members of the Senate are concerned about some of the stipulations included in drafts of the law. Especially concerning is the ability to use QR codes as a form of GMO disclosure instead of simply printing that information on the label. Under the proposed rule, potential buyers will scan these codes with their smartphones and are taken to websites that list the GMO status of the foods.
The 11 senators, 10 Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders, suggested that the 25 percent of Americans who don't have smartphones would be unable to use the QR-based disclosure system as intended. Disclosure by electronic means would be allowable, in their view, if grocery stores included their own QR scanning devices to make sure every shopper has the chance to access the GMO database.
Push to Include Sugars and Oils
In addition to the question of QR scanning, other elements of the finalized design are subject to debate. Food Business News reported that a group known as Just Label It has asked the USDA to require GMO disclosure when refined sugars and oils used in foods are derived from genetically altered sources. Craig Morris, deputy administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's livestock, poultry and seed group, acknowledged that sugars and oils are one of the issues the government is testing as it moves toward a final labeling and disclosure standard.
Waiting for the Rules
Food manufacturers curious about exactly what they'll have to disclose – and how they'll have to disclose it – will have to wait for now. When rules change, an in-house label printer can help companies react quickly and efficiently, producing compliant new packaging. These printers are on display on Argon's U.S. site and Canadian page.