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Key Questions for the FSA’s GM Rice Contamination Review

Immediate release (25 Oct 2007)

Call to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze has written to the chair [1] of the Food Standards Agency’s internal review of the handling of the GM rice contamination in 2006 setting out the questions in eight key areas which need to be answered during the process if similar incidents are to be avoided in the future.

The GM contamination involved the presence of an experimental GM rice developed by Bayer CropScience known as LL601. LL601 was detected at low levels in long grain rice exports from the USA around the world including in the UK and EU. It involved the largest recall of consumer products ever in the UK.

As an unapproved GM variety, LL601 could not be legally sold in any member state and consequently the European Commission issued Emergency Regulations to deal with the incident. The measures required by the EC included the prevention of further LL601 imports and the removal of existing stock from the market.

The FSA’s handling of the removal of the rice from the food chain came under heavy criticism [2] and resulted in a Judicial Review in the High Court earlier in 2007 [3].

GM Freeze have identified 8 key areas on which the review needs to focus on so that everything is done in the future to prevent another GM contaminations incident. The areas are:

  • The lack of forward planning by the FSA to handle contamination incidents.
  • The capacity of the FSA to carry out forward planning.
  • The impact of the lack of availability an analytical technique for LL601 during the first few weeks of the contamination.
  • Why the FSA failed to issue a Food Alert at any time during the incident.
  • The chain of command between the FSA and local authorities.
  • Why the LL601 contamination was not picked up by UK monitoring.
  • Should the FSA take overall control of contamination incidents and what role should the local authorities and the FSA in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland perform?
  • Were there external influences which affected the FSA’s decisions and judgments?

And finally:

  • How did the FSA’s relationship with the UK food industry and their trade bodies impact on how they handled the LL601 contamination incident?

An independent review of the FSA’s handling of the Sudan 1 (an illegal food colourant) contamination in 2005 was also very critical and identified many weaknesses in the Agency’s response. In 2006, the FSA was also criticised for their handling of the contamination of maize imports from the USA with a GM maize known as Bt10[4].

GM Freeze has been monitoring the enforcement of the GMO traceability and labelling Regulation in the UK for the past three years [5]. This year they published an analysis of which food and feed imports were most at risk from GM contamination [6].

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

We were not at all impressed by the FSA’s handling of the LL601 GM rice contamination from the start. It followed hard on the heels of another GM contamination incident in 2005 involving GM maize when there was a similar lack of urgency and direction from the FSA. These incidents call into question the FSA’s ability to plan in advance for contamination incidents, their ability to co-ordinate with other parts of the regulatory system and their overall commitment to police the import and labelling of GM foodstuffs and animal feeds.

“The FSA must take GM contamination more seriously from now on because the risk is growing and in the future could involve the presence of GM pharmaceutical genes in food. At present, we have serious doubts whether the FSA could deal with an incident such as GM vaccine genes getting into cornflakes.


Call to Pete Riley 07903 341 065.

[1] Chitra Bharucha (Chair of the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs).

[2] See here for details.

[3] See

[4] See

[5] See the GM Freeze report here.
[6] See the GM Freeze report here.