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Food Traceability tops North American Summit Agenda


Unilever Drops 'Just Mayo' Lawsuit


Debate About Vermont GMO Law Continues




Food Traceability tops North American Summit Agenda

The North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit will hone in on food traceability. As the battle for labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) continues in the US food industry, retailers and consumers are increasingly asking questions about transparency, production methods and provenance. Taking place in San Francisco on 21-22 January, the summit will cover such developments in the context of traceability of food ingredients.

Labeling and identification of GMOs is a major focus. Sarah Bird, board member of Just label It! and Organic Trade Association will give an update on legislative developments, including Vermontís labeling law and recent ballots. Following Colorado and Oregon, what other states are likely to hold GM labeling ballots in 2015?

In the absence of mandatory labeling, an update will be given on voluntary GMO labeling schemes. Kenneth Ross, CEO of Global ID, will highlight vulnerabilities in global supply chains for food ingredients. How can food and ingredient firms guarantee non-GMO supply chains? With a growing number of natural food retailers like Whole Foods Market taking a pro-labeling stance, the National Cooperative Grocers Association shows how retailers can improve transparency.

Sustainable ingredients are also featured. Many food and beverage companies are reducing their environmental footprints by using sustainable ingredients, whilst others are using such ingredients for product innovations. Kristina Locke, Founder of Conscious Food, highlights developments in natural sweeteners. With palm oil continuing to be a thorny sourcing issue for the food industry, IOI Loders Croklaan and Daabon Organic will give an update on sustainable palm oil production and consumption. Hampton Creek will show how sustainable proteins are creating innovative meat alternatives. Other papers will cover sustainable value chains, gluten-free products, and superfood ingredients.

The customer behavior session will discuss approaches to encourage sustainable purchasing and consumption of food products. Jon Dettling, Managing Director of US Quantis, will present the latest environmental footprint measurements for food production, consumption and waste. Globescan will show how consumer attitudes towards sustainable products and foods are evolving. Matt Jones, chair of Slow Food USA, will give case studies on how positive consumer change can be instigated. Keller & Heckman will give an update on the regulatory environment for marketing claims, whilst another seminar features mobile apps for traceability.

This fifth North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit aims to highlight major developments in food traceability, sustainable ingredients and customer behaviour. With consumer expectations towards sustainability and food products rising, there is a greater need for transparency and traceability in food supply chains. By showcasing industry best-practices, the summit will cover major advances in these areas.

Organized by Organic Monitor, the aim of the Sustainable Foods Summit is to explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues in a high level forum. The North American edition will be hosted at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, San Francisco on 21-22nd January 2015. More information is available from the website

Source: News Release




Unilever Drops 'Just Mayo' Lawsuit

Unilever U.S. division said it has withdrawn its lawsuit against food start-up Hampton Creek over false advertising and unfair competition related to its Just Mayo product.

Unilever, famous for its mayonnaise brand Hellmann's, had filed a suit against Hampton Creek earlier this year accusing the company of advertising Just Mayo, an eggless spread, as mayonnaise.

Unilever alleged that the spread could not be defined as mayonnaise under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's definition as it did not contain eggs.

Common dictionary definitions of mayonnaise similarly define mayonnaise as "a dressing made chiefly of egg yolks, vegetable oils, and vinegar or lemon juice," the company had said in its lawsuit.

The case gained national attention when a petition on gathered 112,000 supporters asking Unilever to "stop bullying sustainable food companies."

Neither company was immediately available for comment outside normal business hours.

Related Article: Consumer Behaviour Key to Success of Sustainable Proteins

Source: Yerepouni Daily News / Reuters



Debate About Vermont GMO Law Continues

Congressional Republicans have introduced a bill that would block states from regulating genetically engineered ingredients. Opponents of the bill say it would undermine Vermont's GMO labeling law, which is to take effect in 2016.

Rep. Kate Webb, D-Shelburne, who was a lead sponsor on the Vermont law, has testified at a U.S. House subcommittee hearing on the Food and Drug Administration's role to regulate genetically engineeredfood. She urged lawmakers to drop bill H.R. 4322.

"I was the lead sponsor on Act 120, a law that simply gives consumers the right to know if the food they purchase in Vermont is genetically engineered," she told the subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "The law is at risk should H.R. 4322 become law."

Members of the Vermont Right to Know Coalition hosted a news conference at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier on Wednesday to oppose the federal bill, known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. Supporters of state labeling requirements have dubbed the bill the DARK Act, which stands for to Deny Americans the Right to Know.

Vermont's law would require manufacturers to label certain products containing genetically modified ingredients. Trade groups sued Vermont this summer, alleging the law is unconstitutional and places an undue burden on producers and retailers.

The Congressional panel also heard testimony from the head of the Snack Food Association, a trade group joining in the lawsuit to overturn Vermont's law. The group seeks to stop mandatory labeling and prefers a national approach over a patchwork of regulations.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, the lead sponsor on the legislation, agrees. He said his bill would not block consumer choice because some manufacturers may choose to label their products for a marketing advantage.

"There is nothing in this legislation that denies any consumer, any capacity, to know precisely what it is they are eating. If any willing provider deems it appropriate, and finds customer demand to provide information to their customers about the nature of that product, no one's right is being impinged today nor would it be if this bill became law," he said.

Tom Dempsey, CEO of the Snack Food Association and former president of UTZ Quality Foods, Inc., said nearly all staples used in snack foods, like corn, soy and sweeteners, are genetically engineered. He said said the "balance of the products" on the shelves contain GMOs, therefore, manufactures should label non-GMO foods voluntarily, just as they do for organic products.

"We do not put non-organic on the balance of the products," he said. "So it seems to me that forcing a mandatory labeling law onto products that are the predominant ones on the supermarket shelves goes against common sense and goes against convention and practice that we already have in the food industry," he said.

However, Webb told the subcommittee state lawmakers considered the impact of a non-GMO certification on small businesses. "The cost for a small business to go through the Non-GMO Project (certification) is prohibitive for them, which is why we were looking for the expense to go to the larger industry," she said.

Pompeo's bill calls for a voluntary label unless the FDA determines genetically engineered foods are harmful to human health. But a senior official with the FDA and a professor testified before the subcommittee and stated GMOs are not scientifically proven to be more harmful than non-GMO foods.

Alison Van Eenennaam, a scientist on animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis, said there is clear consensus among the world's leading scientists that consuming genetically engineered foods is not a risk to human health. She said the consensus is stronger than the consensus around global warming.

"There are no unique risks posed by this particular breeding method," she said. But, she added, "We're talking about a label of how it was produced."

Some foods are genetically engineered to withstand heavy applications of herbicides. Since companies began selling herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops in the 1990s, herbicide use has also increased. A 2013 study found nearly half of U.S. producers reported herbicide resistant weeds on their farms in 2012. So-called super weeds can force farmers to spend more on herbicides, labeling proponents say.

But Stacey Forshee, a fifth generation farmer and regional director for the Kansas Farm Bureau, told the committee she farms 2,000 acres of corn, soy, alfalfa, wheat, and other feed crops for her 700 cattle. She said she uses biotechnology save up to 40 percent on fuel, fertilizer and pesticides. She supported the bill because she does not think GMOs are harmful.

Forshee joined several lawmakers who preferred a national solution. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-VA, a member of the committee, called for uniform labeling. "I'm convinced that we need to have a national label," he said. He said among his top concerns is the confusion consumers may feel that they are buying two different products in two states based on the mandate.

But labeling proponents turned to states and localities because Congress has not yet acted to pass any labeling legislation. "To date, neither the current [Obama] administration nor this Congress has acted to inform and protect consumers with this labeling," Webb said in her testimony.

The future direction of non-GMO labelling in food industry will be discussed in the upcoming Sustainable Foods Summit. Food traceability is a focal theme of the North American edition, hosted in San Francisco on 21-22 January 2015. More details are on the website

Source: Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont)













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