of tortilla chips and taco shells for GMOs completed
Survey of tortilla chips and taco shells for GMOs completed
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today announced details of a survey to determine the levels of genetically modified (GM) maize ingredients in tortilla chips and taco shells on sale in Ireland. The Survey of Tortilla Chips and Taco Shells for Genetically Modified Ingredients was undertaken by the FSAI to determine the level of GM contents in various foods and to ensure that industry is adhering to food labelling regulations. This is the first in a series of planned surveys by the FSAI and forms part of its new responsibilities as the competent authority for novel food, including genetically modified food, in Ireland. Results show that GM maize ingredients were present in 19 of the 26 samples tested, with the majority having levels below 0.1% - considerably less than the 1% threshold level that triggers the labelling requirement. According to Dr Patrick O'Mahony, Chief Specialist, Biotechnology, FSAI there are no known health implications arising from the presence of the GM ingredients identified in these products.
Of the 19 positive samples, 8 contained trace levels of GM DNA that were too low to be quantified. The remaining 11 contained slightly higher levels - one contained 0.5% GM maize, another contained 0.4%, and all other samples contained less than 0.1%. Although 19 GM positive samples were detected, no unlicensed GM maize was positively identified in this survey.
"EU labelling regulations relating to GM foods require that foods containing genetically modified ingredients at or above the 1% threshold, must have clear labelling to indicate that it contains GM ingredients. As none of the samples in this study were found to contain GM maize at, or above the threshold limit of 1%, specific GM labelling was not required on these food products. All brands tested therefore were fully compliant with the relevant legislation', said Dr O'Mahony. "The regulations do stipulate however, that for food products below the 1% threshold level, industry must be able to prove that the food product came from a non-GM source and that if any GM is found, it is as a result of incidental contamination. The FSAI is satisfied that all food from the Irish manufacturers tested in this survey were in compliance with this regulation'.
"This initial study focused on 15 brands of tortilla chips and taco shells on sale in Ireland following claims made in the US and UK that unauthorised maize ingredients had been detected in similar foods', said Dr O'Mahony. "Any traces of GM maize that were individually identified are all varieties that have been approved for food use within the EU and, therefore have already undergone rigorous food safety assessment'.
Currently there is no specific European legislation relating to the use of labelling claims such as 'GM-free'. This labelling falls under the general requirements of the food labelling regulations, under which false or misleading claims to the consumer are prohibited. Therefore, a food containing GM ingredients, but labelled to indicate or suggest that it is 'GM-free' may be in breach of this legislation. Although none of the foods sampled in this survey were specifically labelled as 'GM-free', one product bore the statement 'No Genetically Modified Corn Used' on the packaging. Analysis showed that the product in question contained less than 0.1% of a particular GM maize variety and thus, for the reasons outlined above, the labelling could be considered to be misleading.
The FSAI has contacted the retailers, suppliers and manufacturers whose products were included in the survey to inform them of the test results and to ensure industry's compliance with regard to GM labelling under the relevant EU regulations. These regulations are currently being transposed into Irish law. This survey and others planned for the future, constitute part of the FSAI's duty to ensure that only EU licensed GM foods are available in Ireland and that such foods display the appropriate labelling information.
The survey is available from the FSAI website on www.fsai.ie