Written Q&A to EU Commission – Honey labelling and GMOs

Question for written answer E-002666/13
to the Commission
Jim Higgins (PPE)
(7 March 2013)

Subject: Labelling of honey

The practical effect of the classification of pollen as a constituent of honey in the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2001/110/EC relating to honey will be that the presence of authorised genetically modified (GM) pollen in honey will not require labelling unless it exceeds 0.9% of the overall honey weight.
How does the Commission plan to protect the rights of consumers to transparent labelling?
How can consumers make an informed decision when the presence of GM pollen is not marked on the label of honey products?

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
(22 April 2013)

The objective of the proposal by the Commission is not to prevent consumers from being informed of the presence of unauthorised GM pollen in honey, but to clarify that pollen is a constituent of honey, in line with international standards. This amendment will restore honey as a natural product made by bees and only composed of constituents.
In this context, the GMO legislation (1) adopted by the European Parliament and the Council sets out a labelling threshold of 0.9% under which presence of authorised GMOs in foodstuff does not have to be labelled when this presence is adventitious or technically unavoidable. The Commission considers that this labelling threshold applies equally to honey as to any other foodstuff and that there are no objective reasons to make a special treatment for honey.
The Commission considers that the development of ‘GM free’ labelling schemes by private operators or public authorities can permit consumers to select products avoiding any GM presence if they so wish. The Commission has launched a study to gain a better understanding of the scopes and specifications of these labels in the EU and to assess the need for a possible harmonisation of this field. The results of the study will be published in 2013.

⋅1∙ Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on GM food and feed, OJ L 268, 18.10.2003.

Food recalls in EU – Week 49

This week on the RASFF database (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) we don’t have any recalls from consumers in EU, between the alert notifications.

Between the information for attention, followed by a recall from the consumers:

Allergens: too high content of gluten in sweet corn flour, following an official control on the market. Origin and notification from Poland.

Between the alert notifications, followed by a withdrawal from the market of the product:

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: foodborne outbreak suspected caused by chilled mussels, following a consumer complaint. Origin from Ireland and Netherlands, notification from United Kingdom, distributed also to Austria, Czech Republic and France;

Biocontaminants: histamine in canned sardines in olive oil, following a company’s own check. Origin Morocco, notification from France;

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: Listeria Monocytogenes in chilled herring fillets in oil, following company’s own check. Origin Netherlands, notification from France;

Allergens: undeclared soya in fine poultry pate, following an official control on the market. Origin Poland, notification from Czech Republic;

Heavy metals: lead in food supplement, following an official control on the market. Origin Austria, notification from Slovenia.

 Heavy metals: mercury in frozen sliced blue shark, following an official control on the market. Origin Spain, notification from Italy.

In Switzerland we have also a seizure of green papaya from Thailand for presence of unauthorised genetically modified organism, following a border control.

Regarding border rejections we have, among the others, aflatoxins in peanut kernels and in blanched groundnuts from China, in pistachio kernels from Afghanistan (via Turkey), in organic ginger from India and in dried figs from Turkey, Salmonella poona in fresh water spinach from Sri Lanka, suspicion of fraudulent health certificate for almonds from the United States (via Turkey), absence of health certificate for graviola powder, cat’s claw powder and Chanca Piedra powder from Peru, for chicken and chive rice crackers declared as wheat crackers from China and for fresh okra from India , poor hygienic state of soft and spelt wheat from Armenia, unsuitable organoleptic characteristics and poor hygienic state of bananas from Colombia, dimethoate and hexaconazole in fresh mint from Morocco, buprofezin, triazophos, acetamiprid and fipronil and unauthorised substance isocarbophos in green tea from China.

For food contact material we have a border rejection for migration of cadmium from plates from China.