FSANZ survey shows low risk of GM ingredients in soy-based infant formula

Last year several media reports, including reports on testing undertaken by Greenpeace, suggested that genetically modified (GM) ingredients had been detected in soy-based infant formula that were not labelled as containing GM components.

In response, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) conducted a small survey of a soy-based infant formula for GM ingredients, recognising the consumer sensitivities associated with infants and infant formula.

Six samples of a major brand of soy-based infant formula with different batch codes and use-by dates were purchased from a number of supermarkets. Each sample was analysed using a similar testing methodology by two independent accredited laboratories for GM DNA commonly used in GM plants.

One laboratory did not detect GM DNA in any of the six samples, while the second laboratory reported detections at very low levels (0.1-0.2%). This level is very close to the lowest amount that can be measured (0.05%) with accuracy. The variation within and between laboratories demonstrated the difficulty in detecting GM in foods close to the detection limit of these sensitive methods.

While the results between laboratories were different, all of the levels found in the positive tests were below the threshold level of 1% required for mandatory labelling when an approved GM food is present unintentionally (according to Standard 1.5.2 Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code). 

The labelling laws in Australia and New Zealand allow the threshold level of 1% GM content in a product in acknowledgement that a small amount of cross-over between bulk food consignments could reasonably be expected to occur. Thresholds for unintended GM presence exist in many overseas countries where labelling is mandatory.

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