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Labelling of Genetically Modified (GM) foods - a guide for caterers

by Charlotte Anderson | Mar 02, 2020

GM foods were a political hot potato 20 years ago, with Greenpeace running an anti-GM campaign, that gained traction with the public, thereby preventing many GM products from making their way in to the food chain; directly at least – to this day, large numbers of livestock are fed GM products.

The rules surrounding GM labelling will predominantly apply to cooking oil. Customers should check the labels of oil to check whether it contains GM products. Failure to comply with these labelling requirements is a criminal offence.


  1. ) Which law requires this labelling?

    The labelling is required by EC regulation 1829/2003. This regulation is mainly enforced by Trading Standards under the Genetically Modified Food (England) Regulations 2004; however, Environmental Health may carry out enforcement in certain local authorities.


  2. ) What is required?

    Food retailers and caterers are required to inform their customers which foods and ingredients, if any, contain or are produced from genetically modified organisms. This does not include pre-packed foods, which are sold to consumers in the same container that the manufacturer packed them in.


  3. ) What is GM food?

    Genetically modified food is produced from plants which have had their genetic make-up tweaked in the lab. Scientists "cut and paste" a gene from another organism into a plant's DNA to give it a new characteristic. Genetic modification (GM) can be used to give crops immunity to plant viruses.


  4. ) Which foods might be GM?

    There are several GM organisms authorised for use in food. These organisms include soya, maize, rapeseed, and cotton, which are sometimes used as ingredients in vegetable oil.

    It’s worth noting that GM foods appear to be widely available to caterers in the form of cooking oil and other products, such as mayonnaise.

    Future authorisations may be granted for other GM organisms; therefore, you should always check for any changes in the ingredients of the products you are supplied

    A general notice that foods contain, or may contain, GM ingredients, is no longer sufficient (such notices used to be permitted under previous regulations).


  5. )How do I find our which foods contain genetically modified organisms?

    Your supplier should pass on this information to you. It is now a legal requirement for food products produced from or containing ingredients produced from GMOs (e.g. soya) to be declared either in the ingredients list or if there is no ingredients list clearly on the label.


  6. ) What information is required on food from your suppliers?

    Where there is an ingredients list, any GM ingredient must be identified by the use of the words 'genetically modified' or 'produced from genetically modified (name of the ingredient)'. These words must be printed in brackets after the name of the ingredient or as a footnote to the list of ingredients.

    If there is no list of ingredients, the words 'genetically modified' or 'produced from genetically modified (name of organism)' must appear on the label.


  7. ) Are there any exemptions?

    The labelling requirement applies to all foods, which are supplied to the final consumer or to a catering establishment.

    If GM foods are accidentally or unavoidably present in a food at low levels (no more than 0.9%), they need not be declared. In this case, the producer will be expected to show that they have taken appropriate steps to avoid the presence of GM food.


  8. ) Can I use the term GM free?

    Products consistently 100% free from GM material can be labelled as such but its use is discouraged.


    • analytically, it is possible to detect minute traces of genetically modified organisms in food
    • additives, flavourings and extraction solvents you use may have been produced from genetically modified organisms


  9. ) What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Failure to comply with these labelling requirements is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty on summary conviction in a magistrates' court is a fine of £5,000.

If you have any questions about any of the information contained in this article, then please contact your NCASS Account Manager on 0121 60302524 or drop us an email to


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