Friday, July 15, 2011


Mandatory declaration on labels regarding the actual content in a food packet is an universally accepted norm. The key criterion based on which such a system has been put in place is the consumer has a right to know about the food being eaten and need for total transparency on the part of the manufacturer. However there have been fierce debates about the necessity to declare some information which can have implications on the acceptability of the product in the market. One of the most debated issues which are still raging is the need for declaring presence of GM ingredients in foods as a substantial segment of the consumer community aver that they are not safe. On the other hand irradiated foods are required to declare the same though the technology has been found to be 100% safe. Latest controversy centers around the demand by the consumer activists that foods derived from cloned animals should be declared on the label leaving the choice of buying to the consumer. Industry feels that under such a regime the cloned animal products would suffer in the market. UK is facing such a dilemma and how this acrimony will end up is a matter of conjecture.

The preference would still be not to stock products from the progeny of cloned animals," said Andrew Opie, British Retail Consortium food policy director. "The word 'cloning' does not resonate well with the consumer. It's still a very sensitive issue. But retailers cannot definitively say they are not sourcing such products, because nobody has the traceability to say that." Concerns were underlined by criticism of the FSA's stance from consumer group Which? "Our research shows that consumers see little difference between meat and dairy products from actual clones or their offspring," said Which? executive director Richard Lloyd. "As well as an approval process, we want to see a tracking system and clear labelling of these goods on the supermarket shelf," he added, playing down supply chain complexities. A British Pig Executive (BPEX) spokeswoman said its processor and producer members were gauging the attitude of the major supermarkets. "It seems that retailers are still trying to work out what consumers are really worried about." Beyond that, she welcomed the move. "We are supportive of the FSA's decision. It means our members are no longer in danger of marketing food not approved by authorities." She particularly backed moves not to advise mandatory labelling of such products, given that industry representatives had claimed it would be impossible to reliably segregate. An FSA spokeswoman said its advice "has no legal force but is important as it provides guidance to local authorities on how they should enforce the legislation".

It is conceded that both the government and the industry are concerned about this issue with the former supporting the industry stand that there should not be any mandatory declaration as safety of these foods has been proved by scientific studies. Probably a part of the blame lies with the scientific community for not bringing sufficient clarity to the issue through consensus. Added to this the animal activists have jumped into the bandwagon raising the ethical aspects of the technology deployed for cloning. A way out could be for the government to allow statements by the industry that cloned foods are safe to consume, the onus of proving that resting with the latter..


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