WASHINGTON — Nestle USA, General Mills, Inc., Campbell Soup Co. and ConAgra Foods, Inc. are among major food companies applauding a U.S. Senate committee’s agreement on June 23 to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods.
A bill would give food and beverage manufacturers options in disclosing whether a product contains bioengineered ingredients/genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.). The form of a disclosure may be a “text, symbol, or electronic or digital link,” according to the bill. Companies would have the option of using quick-response (Q.R.) codes, phone numbers or web sites instead of on-pack labeling.
|Paul Grimwood, chairman and c.e.o. of Nestle USA|
Paul Grimwood, chairman and chief executive officer of Nestle USA, touted Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the ranking member of the committee, in reaching the bipartisan agreement.
“We’ve been looking for a clear and consistent way to disclose G.M.O. ingredients to consumers who rightfully want to know what is in their food and how their food is made,” Mr. Grimwood said. “The proposed legislation accomplishes this in a way that benefits everyone in the food supply chain, from farmers and manufacturers to retailers and consumers. As part of our commitment to transparency, we continue to work with a coalition of industry leaders adopting SmartLabel, a digital platform that helps consumers make more informed decisions about the food and beverage products they buy.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, introduced the SmartLabel technology initiative that allows consumers to get additional details about products by scanning a bar code or conducting an on-line search. More than 35 companies have committed to the initiative, and by mid-June, more than 500 products are using SmartLabel, according to the G.M.A.
“The SmartLabel platform allows us to communicate directly to consumers in a way we’ve never done before,” Mr. Grimwood said. “Beyond G.M.O.s, this digital tool gives us an entirely new platform to share even more information about ingredients, allergens, ingredient sourcing, portion guidance, and much more.”
Campbell Soup, Camden, N.J., which initially voiced its support for a federal standard for G.M.O. labeling in January, said it has been working with the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on labeling language that is comprehensive, clear and informative.
“We support the compromise and applaud the hard work of the Senators who crafted it,” Campbell Soup said in a statement. “We remain committed to on-package labeling disclosure.”
Minneapolis-based General Mills also applauded the Senate’s move toward a uniform national food labeling standard.
“We’re pleased that the U.S. Senate has reached this historic bipartisan agreement to set national standards in this area,” General Mills said in a statement. “We need consistency across the country. Without this national solution we risked having a system of 50 different regulations impacting our packages. We look forward to reviewing the details and the ensuing regulations as they develop.”ConAgra Foods, Omaha, issued a similar statement: “ConAgra Foods is supportive of the bipartisan Senate bill calling for a uniform, national disclosure standard for foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. We stand behind the health and safety of all of our products, including those with genetically engineered ingredients, and believe consumers should be informed about the ingredients in their food.”