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GMA Cites Costs of Vermont Law in Urging Passage of Federal Bill on Uniform Food Labeling Standard

GMA Press Contact

Roger Lowe

office: 202-295-3954

Food group sends letter to Vermont Governor on Implementation Costs to Businesses

(Washington, D.C.) – The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said today that the enormous costs, complexities and challenges for food manufacturers to comply with Vermont’s food labeling mandate show the critical need for Congress to pass federal legislation setting a uniform national food labeling standard.

Vermont’s state labeling mandate on foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is scheduled to go into effect in July 2016, and GMA is challenging that law in federal court. While the case is pending, however, food manufacturers must plan for its implementation, and in doing so, are finding even more costs and challenges from the law, GMA said in a letter to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.

“The challenges and costs associated with compliance are inordinate and compounded by the fact that the State of Vermont has repeatedly failed to respond to numerous comments we submitted seeking clarification in the implementation of the law, and has yet to provide any guidance on the subject,” wrote Pamela G. Bailey, GMA’s president and CEO.”

In its letter, GMA said that the costs to change labels and supply chain systems will be so great that these costs could exceed revenue to food manufacturers from the sale of products in the state. 

The letter highlighted a clause in the law that holds food manufacturers liable for fines of $1,000 a day if a mislabeled product is found on Vermont shelves, even if the manufacturer was not responsible for it being in the store. Bailey explained that with national food supply chains, even with the best of intentions, excellent supply chain logistics and herculean efforts, 5 percent to 10 percent of products might be mislabeled in stores at any given time.

“Vermont’s law imposes a $1,000 daily fine for each item that does not bear the legally designated label,” Bailey wrote. “We estimate that industry wide, there could be over 100,000 items sold in Vermont that would require Vermont-specific labels. That means our industry could be facing fines as much as $10 million per day.”

The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee held a hearing today on legislation that would set uniform, science-based food labeling standards. Testimony at the hearing on the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act warned of the higher food costs and greater consumer confusion from a range of different state labeling mandates and highlighted the need for a uniform national labeling standard. The federal law on GMO labeling would set a national standard and preempt state laws such as the one in Vermont.

“This legislation to protect our national food labeling system has strong bipartisan support, and we are pleased to see congressional committees holding hearings on the bill to understand the issues,” Bailey said. “It is vitally important that the committees move this bill forward so it can be considered and passed by the House this summer and then in the Senate as soon as possible.”   

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Based in Washington, D.C., the Grocery Manufacturers Association is the voice of more than 300 leading food, beverage and consumer product companies that sustain and enhance the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe. 

Founded in 1908, GMA is an active, vocal advocate for its member companies and a trusted source of information about the industry and the products consumers rely on and enjoy every day.  The association and its member companies are committed to meeting the needs of consumers through product innovation, responsible business practices and effective public policy solutions developed through a genuine partnership with policymakers and other stakeholders. 

In keeping with its founding principles, GMA helps its members produce safe products through a strong and ongoing commitment to scientific research, testing and evaluation and to providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.  The food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry in the United States generates sales of $2.1 trillion annually, employs 14 million workers and contributes $1 trillion in added value to the economy every year.