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Hannah Polk

By: Hannah Polk on June 3rd, 2021

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What to Know About the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard

New disclosure standards always create challenges for CPG brands, and the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) is no exception. All foods entering the market after January 1, 2022, must be labeled following NBFDS regulations. But according to Betsy Booren, SVP Regulatory Affairs at Consumer Brands Association, quoted in FoodNavigator-USA, many brands aren’t ready. “Sometimes . . . suppliers don’t have the material, and sometimes. . . they don’t understand or know the rule.”

Her statement sums up the twin challenges of BE food disclosure — understanding what the regulations require and of whom, and then obtaining ingredient information from opaque supply chains. Here, we cover what the regulation mandates, who's most at risk, and the four options for disclosure. 

What Does the Regulation Say?

The NBFDS requires food manufacturers and importers to disclose the presence of bioengineered food or food that contains bioengineered food ingredients on products labeled for U.S. retail sale; however, manufacturers with annual sales of more than $2.5 million are exempt. The standard also applies to certain retailers that label food for retail sale.

Who’s Most at Risk?

Identifying who’s most at risk comes down to the second of the twin challenges of BE disclosure — opaque supply chains. Most large manufacturers have been working on disclosure labeling for customer satisfaction and competitive reasons, so they’ve already done extensive work to track down information about ingredients. But mid-size manufacturers don’t typically have the infrastructure to get this information and implement disclosure quickly. 

While 53% of all food & beverage products contain at least one ingredient from the BE list, certain categories almost always include BE ingredients. For example, the bakery aisle has the most at-risk products, with 83% of those products containing at least one ingredient on the BE list. 32% of dietary supplements contain at least one ingredient from the BE list, and supplement manufacturers may not even be aware that their products fall under this regulation.

What are Bioengineered Foods?

Crucial to compliance is understanding what constitutes “bioengineered food” in the law. NBFDS defines bioengineered foods as those that contain “genetic material that has been modified through in vitro rDNA techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” The USDA has created a list of bioengineered foods to help companies determine what foods they need to keep records for and which require disclosure. Crops on this list include alfalfa, Arctic apples, canola, corn, cotton, eggplant, papaya, pineapple, potato, salmon, soybean, squash, and sugarbeet.

 

The list is not exhaustive, as USDA specifically states that “New BE products continue to be developed. Even if a food is not included on the List, regulated entities whose records show that a food they are selling is bioengineered must make appropriate disclosure of that food.”

This definition is somewhat controversial. Some say the law doesn’t go far enough since some bioengineered ingredients aren’t detectable through testing. But despite legal challenges to the law, it appears that there will be no additional extensions on the compliance deadline.

4 Solutions for Disclosure

According to the standard, organizations subject to NBFDS regulations have four options for compliance: on-package text or USDA-approved graphic symbol, an electronic or digital link, or an SMS text message.

 

Working With a Data Partner Streamlines Compliance

With digital disclosure, you can take advantage of third-party product data, so there’s no need to source ingredient information yourself. A partner with robust, accurate data sources will be able to identify which of your products require labeling. 

Label Insight has developed a limited availability, cost-effective package to help you leverage digital  disclosure to meet your mandatory BE disclosure requirements. Let our experienced team of experts  assess your risk, develop an end-to-end, future-proof solution tailored to your business and implement it for you before the deadline. Due to our own capacity constraints, our BE disclosure offer closes June 30th, 2021 to ensure we can deliver on-time with exceptional quality by the January 1st, 2022  deadline. Contact us at marketing@labelinsight.com or visit labelinsight.com to learn more.  

See why digital is an ideal solution for disclosure. Read The Hidden Risks That Make BE Disclosure Business-Critical

About Hannah Polk

Hannah Polk, RD, LDN is a licensed and registered dietitian based in Chicago. In her current role as a solutions consultant at Label Insight, Hannah supports retailers by crafting and applying high order attribution and product transparency to products in-store and online in order to drive growth. With access to Label Insight data and insights, retailers can make data-driven decisions across their organization and continue to increase revenue and shopper loyalty. Hannah is passionate about healthy, transparent, and better-for-you products and aims to help optimize the consumer shopping experience. Hannah takes pride in being a subject matter and trend expert in the food and beverage, pet, and personal care industries.