Consumers will notice changes to the packaging of poultry products as two major manufacturers roll out new labels and bags for their merchandise no longer using the claim 'not genetically modified'.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair, Ms Louise Sylvan, said that a statement or claim could be potentially misleading or deceptive even if it was technically true.
"Packaging claiming 'not genetically modified' could mislead consumers in this case given that feed which is genetically modified may be being used".
"Genetic modification in relation to food is an important emerging issue for consumers. The ACCC aims to ensure that consumers can be confident in the accuracy of information on products in this regard".
Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd, the third largest poultry producer in Australia, has begun relabelling its Lilydale Select Free Range chicken products following discussions with the ACCC.
Previously, labels on trays of Lilydale chicken fillets stated that the chickens were 'not genetically modified'. However, as the feed given to Baiada's chickens may contain genetically modified soy, the ACCC believed that the claim could be misleading, as it potentially conveyed to consumers that the feed used was GM-free.
The new labels are already on all trays of Lilydale chicken fillets and the new bags for whole Lilydale chickens to be phased in before the end of 2004. Ms Sylvan acknowledged the co-operation of Baiada in dealing with the ACCC's concerns in a timely manner and implementing the packaging changes quickly.
The ACCC has also been in negotiations with Bartter Steggles, Australia's second largest producer of poultry, regarding similar statements that currently appear on Steggles packaging. The company also uses feed that may contain genetically modified material.
Bartter Steggles has informed the ACCC that a complete rollout of new packaging without the 'not genetically modified' statements will take place by May 2005.
"I look forward to seeing the new Steggles packaging appearing in supermarkets early next year", she said. "New products released by Steggles since meeting with the ACCC do not bear any non-GM claims on their packaging.
"The ACCC is watching 'GM-free' claims closely in the market and reminds food producers more generally that within the strong wording of our misleading conduct laws, 'free' has to mean 'free'".
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