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'GM free' must mean zero GM, says the Food Commission

July 1999

The Food Commission says that 'GM-Free' must mean exactly what it says. In a report published in its Food Magazine today, the consumer watchdog says it is unacceptable for some supermarkets and food companies to say their food is 'free of genetically modified (GM) ingredients' and then allow a 'tolerance level', in some cases up to 2%, of GM material.

'Consumers wanting GM-free foods need to know that the strictest standards operate to keep GM contamination out of the entire food chain,' says Sue Dibb, co-director of the Food Commission and author of the report. 'All food companies which claim their products are GM-free should be aiming for zero tolerance levels.'

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Marks & Spencer and Budgens have told the Food Commission they are already aiming for zero tolerance. But ASDA, Iceland, the Co-op, Somerfield and Waitrose say they are either working to a higher tolerance level or waiting for the European Union to agree a legal tolerance level which might be as high as 2%.

The Food Commission is calling for the EU to set a maximum legal tolerance level of no more than 0.1%. This will effectively force companies to aim for zero tolerance.