'Our enforcement priorities will focus on willful violations of the labeling law'

Vermont AG offers 6-month safe harbor on GMO labeling enforcement

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Vermont AG's safe harbor clause in GMO labeling enforcement

Related tags Food Supermarket Maize

In a memorandum on the new GMO labeling law coming into force in Vermont in July, attorney general William H. Sorrell says enforcement action will “focus on willful violations of the labeling law” and that there will be a six-month safe harbor period for foods distributed before July 1 and offered for sale through December 31.

In the one-page memo​,​ he adds: “Out of recognition that some food products have longer shelf lives, CP 121 creates a sixmonth “safe harbor” for foods distributed before July 1, 2016, and offered for retail sale through December 31, 2016.During this six-month period, unless there is evidence that a manufacturer distributed a mislabeled product after July 1, 2016, we will not bring an enforcement action or seek fines for those products.

“Beginning January 1, 2017, all products must be properly labeled regardless of when they were distributed.

“In the exercise of this Office’s discretion, however, our enforcement priorities will focus on willful violations of the labeling law. Thus, even after January 1, 2017, we do not expect to bring enforcement cases based solely on a company’s failure to remove improperly labeled products that were distributed before July 1, 2016.”

Under Act 120​  firms supplying foods for sale in Vermont must declare that they are: ‘Produced with genetic engineering’​ or ‘partially produced with genetic engineering’ ​or ‘may be produced with genetic engineering’​ unless they can prove otherwise.

It also includes the stipulation that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients cannot be marketed as ‘natural’.

However, it excludes processed foods containing GE material if this material accounts for less than 0.9% of the dry weight of the product. (For example, a salad dressing that contains only a small amount (no more than 0.9% by weight) of corn syrup produced from GE corn and no other GE material would not be subject to the labeling requirement.)

Similarly, it does not require meat or milk from animals fed genetically engineered feed to be labeled, and excludes alcohol, processing aids/enzymes (eg. cheese made with vegetarian GE rennet), dietary supplements, medical foods and foods sold in restaurants or unpackaged foods sold in supermarket delis (eg. hot soup).

The label "must be located on the package so as to be easily found by consumers when viewing the outside of the package". ​Stickers or stanps are also acceptable.

Read the text of the law HERE​ plus an FAQ​  from the Vermont attorney general’s office.

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