New Food Labels Required in 2022
Genetically engineered foods will require a label in the United States, starting in 2022. The new Standard requires food manufacturers, importers, and other entities that label foods for retail sale to disclose information about genetically engineered food and genetically engineered food ingredients. This rule provides a mandatory uniform national standard for disclosure of information to consumers about the genetically engineered status of foods. The establishment and implementation of the new Standard are required by an amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.
Although most scientists agree that genetically engineered foods do not contain health risks, in 2019, a survey found that over half of Americans think genetically engineered foods are worse for health. The labeling comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adopted the national bioengineered food disclosure standard in 2018. USDA officials have put together a list of bioengineered foods for consumers to get a better idea of what will be labeled.
The ruling includes that food manufacturers will have four options to choose from for their labeling. The first calls for food products to be labeled “bioengineered”, and if there is only one bioengineered ingredient, it will be labeled “contains a bioengineered food ingredient.” The second option allows manufacturers to use a symbol, which consists of a stem growing from a field with the sun shining in the background and the word “bioengineered” surrounding it. The third option for manufacturers is a QR code that can be scanned on a smartphone to obtain more information. The last option allows manufacturers to label covered foods with instructions on how to request a text message with the required disclosure.
The program does include exemptions. First, any food served at a restaurant or similar institution, such as a salad bar or food truck, is exempt from the program. Second, food manufacturers with annual receipts less than $2.5 million are exempt from the program. Any food labeled as USDA organic will also be presumptively free of genetically engineered food under this program and will not require a label. Finally, meat or dairy products derived from animals fed genetically engineered crops will not require a label.
The mandatory compliance date for the federal rule is January 1, 2022.