Caterers have until September to find out from their suppliers which products contain genetically modified (GM) soya or maize and tell their customers.
But restaurants will not have to declare genetically modified food apart from soya or maize. This means that other modified products, such as tomatoes, will not necessarily be declared on menus. Government officials say that this is because there are no European regulations on GM products other than soya or maize.
Last week food safety minister Jeff Rooker brought forward legislation under the EC Regulation 1139/98, which requires all food outlets to declare whether GM soya or maize is used and threatens a £5,000 fine for those that fail to comply.
Issuing a general disclaimer to say "food might contain GM ingredients", as caterers sometimes do to protect themselves from legal action over other ingredients, such as nuts, will not be accepted.
But trading standards officers, who are to enforce the legislation, are worried that the regulations will cause greater confusion and be of no real benefit to caterers or customers.
"The regulations need to be extended to cover all ingredients and the Government needs to establish a definition for the meaning of ‘GM-free'," said Steve Butterworth, lead officer for food of the Institute of Trading Standards Administration.
- Soya lecithin or lecithin (E322) - thickening agent in milk shakes, biscuits and chocolate bars.
- Emulsifier - found in cakes and bread.
- Soya oil - found in sauces, pastries, cakes and deep-fried foods.
- Vegetable oil or fat - used in biscuits and frozen fried foods, such as chips.
- Maltodextrin - type of starch found in baby foods, powdered soups, cake mixes and powdered desserts.
- Modified starch or modified corn starch - thickening agents used in baby foods, baked beans, tinned pasta, soups and tinned stews.
- Xantham gum - thickening agent used in tinned and packet soups.
- Glucose - found in soft drinks, powdered desserts and instant soups.
- Dextrose - used in cakes, chips and biscuits plus as a sweetener in some drinks.
- High-fructose corn syrup - used in a range of products as a sweetener
by Christina Golding