Nearly 100 retailers and food trade members attended a jam-packed talk by Assistant Vermont Attorney General Todd Daloz, who said that although the new GMO law takes effect July 1, the first six months, until Dec. 31, will be a time of educating retailers and food producers of the impact of the law. Daloz said even after Jan. 1, 2017, the complaints he will investigate will be willful non-compliance.
Daloz was one of the major speakers at the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association Expo, held last weekend at the Hotel Burlington in Burlington, Vermont.
Vermont is the first state to implement and enforce the Genetically Engineered Food Labeling rule. The law applies to raw agricultural products such as corn and squash as well as processed foods like crackers, soda and cereals. The law also will affect several sectors of the food industry, including producers, processors, distributors and retailers.
Daloz answered many questions from the audience and stayed after the event to answer even more inquiries. The Vermont Attorney General’s office recently issued replies to a list of frequently asked questions.
If a product that is not compliant with the GE Labeling Law was distributed into Vermont prior to July 1, 2016, and remains on the shelf after Jan. 1, 2017, is the manufacturer still in violation of the law if they can prove distribution took place before the law went into effect?
The Rule provides a safe harbor for foods distributed prior to July 1, 2016, and offered for retail sale until Jan. 1, 2017. After that time, the manufacturer of any packaged, processed food that does not comply with the GE labeling law and is being offered for retail sale in Vermont could be liable for penalties, regardless of the date the product was produced or distributed.
What happens if a retailer in Vermont offers for sale a non-compliant product that it purchased out of state and was never meant for distribution in Vermont?
All products offered for retail sale within Vermont retail premises must be labeled in compliance with the GE labeling law, regardless of whether the product was originally distributed into Vermont.
Does the label have to be on the front of the product?
The label on packaged processed food must be located on the package so as to be easily found by consumers when viewing the outside of the package.
What other requirements must my label meet?
The disclosure must also be easily read by:
- Being in a color that contrasts with the background of the package, so as to be easily read;
- Being either: In a font size no smaller than the size of the words “Serving Size” on the Nutrition Facts label required by the FDA; or in a font size no smaller than the Ingredient List required by the FDA, and printed in bold typeface.
Some of the examples of genetically engineered foods are corn, soybeans, sugar beets, alfalfa, and canola and cottonseed oil.