Purity to seek GM-free maize for infant foods

Tiger Brands had begun the process of sourcing non genetically modified (GM) maize for its Purity baby products following complaints by the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and consumers, the food producer has said.

Tiger Brands’ managing executive for home, personal and babycare products, Martin Lind, said Purity had begun searching for sources of GM-free maize after concerns were raised about local and international suppliers, according to Business Report.

“Our challenge is that the majority of countries use GM seeds in maize production.”

Tiger Brands was responding to accusations that its Purity Cream of Maize and Purity Baby’s First baby cereals contained high levels of GM maize.

According to ACB tests, Purity Cream of Maize contained 56.2 percent GM maize while Purity Baby’s First contained 71.4 percent. Tiger Brands was accused of ignoring concerns from 1 000 consumers who had signed a petition against GM-maize and non-labelling of these products.

ACB also tested baby cereals from Nestlé and Aspen, which had no significant GM levels.

Lind said the group was investigating the supply chains of domestic suppliers to assess whether cross contamination could be eliminated in order to obtain GM-free grain for Purity.

He stressed that Purity products were safe for infant consumption and presented no health risk. He said that Tiger Brands had, as early as last year, added GM alerts to its labels and that the batch label for Purity Cream of Maize would be rolled out next month.

Mariam Mayet, who heads the ACB lobby group, said: “About 1 000 consumers have signed a petition and asked Tiger Brands to please go GM free, and we submitted this to the food producer, but the response was very bad.”

Unlike other food producers, which engaged with the centre on the issues of GM food and labelling, Tiger Brands snubbed it, she said.

Mayet said Nestlé and Aspen were not the only infant food producers that dealt with the issue positively, FutureLife had also pledged to go GM free.

Last year the centre found that 77.6 percent of Nestlé’s Cerelac Honey baby cereal comprised GM maize. Since then Nestlé had decided to refrain from using GM content in its baby food products.

“As a global food manufacturer, Nestlé takes into consideration local needs and consumer preferences in countries where we operate. It is for these reasons that all Nestlé infant cereals manufactured in South Africa are now produced using non-GM maize,” Nestlé said.

Aspen’s nutritionals chief executive, Karyn Purchase, said yesterday that Aspen was committed to manufacturing high quality products that complied with internationally approved standards. “Aspen has always endeavoured to secure non-GM ingredients and commodities which are used in the manufacture of its high quality infant nutritional products.”

She added that Aspen performed independent GM tests on products at the Free State University health sciences GM organism testing facility.

“Sourcing non-GM ingredients severely restricts the number of vendors able to meet the specification criteria, but Aspen does not compromise on its quality standards in this regard,” she said.

The Consumer Goods Council of SA said yesterday that it was aware of the matter and had received enquiries and complaints regarding GM food products and their labelling.

“We are planning a clarification session together with two other associations, which will be attended by all impacted stakeholders.”

The council explained that the labelling rules for GM food were not yet finalised. There was uncertainty as to whether GM labels were required for only the flour of listed commodities such as maize, soya beans, canola and cotton, or for all food products containing these ingredients.

Source: Business Report