PEOPLE TEND to leave their ethics at home when it comes to eating out, but that doesnt exclude foodservice businesses from responsibilities to educate and inform.
As in retail, labelling laws apply to genetically modified (GM) food served by caterers: products containing GM material of GM ingredients must, says the Food Standards Agency, be labelled in accordance with GM food and feed regulations. And this includes highly refined products such as oil from GM maize.
The Food Standards Agencys advice on GM labelling for caterers is as follows:
Food businesses using cooking oil derived from authorised GMOs should communicate this to their customers either by including this information on the menu card, display case or at the till to allow consumers to make an informed choice.
The GM regulations also state that where GM food is offered for sale to the final consumer as non-pre-packaged food, or as pre-packaged food in small containers of which the largest surface has an area of less than 10 square centimetres, the labelling information must be permanently and visibly displayed; either on the food display or immediately next to it, or on the packaging material, in a font sufficiently large for it to be easily identified and read.
An indication of the GM status of food or food ingredients on a menu would also be a way of informing consumers.
The Soil Association suggests that some catering outlets arent aware of these laws. In 2008, York Trading Standards officers reported that a quarter of caterers were using GM oil and 94% were selling it unlabelled. This can result in six months in jail and fines of up to £5,000 as a campaign by Norfolk Trading Standards publicised.