In a move that will set the major food company apart from its competitors, Campbell Soup Company will label all ingredients that are genetically engineered on its products’ labels.
The New York Times reports that the major food industry, which produces brands like Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Plum Organics and V8 (in addition to its namesake soups), is stepping outside of the norm by choosing to label any genetically modified organisms used in its foods.
The monumental step is an important one, as presently, 92% of American consumers desire to know if GMO’s are in the food they are purchasing and eating. This pressure has spurred Campbell to take a risk – one that is being applauded by many activists.
The big food corporation is also calling for federal action to make mandatory a uniform labeling system of foods that contains such ingredients.
Said Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell:
“We’re optimistic that a federal solution can be reached in a reasonable amount of time, but if that’s not the case, we’re preparing to label all our products across the portfolio.
…We’ve always believed consumers have a right to know what’s in their food […], and transparency is a critical part of our purpose.”
This is a huge contrast from most other major food corporations, which are seeking to supersede any state’s legislation with a voluntary federal solution (such as in Vermont).
Beginning in July, however, the state of Vermont will require disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients. To comply, Campbell and other companies are already in the process of creating labels that disclose the GMO ingredients used in their products.
Credit: Campbell Soup Company
A sampling of the company’s new label for SpaghettiO’s can be seen to the right.
It’s sparsely worded and does not specify which individual ingredients are genetically altered, but simple states: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about G.M.O. ingredients, visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”
The change in labeling is now expected to take 12 to 18 months.
Even in states that have not made it mandatory to label GMOs, a shift in the food industry is being witnessed. Grocery stores like Kroger and Safeway have highlighted organic and ‘natural’ sections to meet consumers’ demands. In addition, food providers such as Chipotle, Ben & Jerry’s, General Mills, and even Hershey’s are taking the initiative to eliminate genetically modified ingredients in at least some of their products.
But no companies have gone as far as Campbell. You can bet this will shake up the food industry even more, in a very positive way.
In a press release, the company stated:
“- Campbell’s will be launching several lines of organic kid’s soups, and removing MSG from all their kid’s soups. In August 2015, the company will introduce Campbell’s Organic soup for kids in three chicken noodle varieties. The soups will be non-GMO and certified Organic.
– Pepperidge Farm will be launching several organic wheat versions of their popular Goldfish Crackers. Look for organic wheat versions of regular, cheddar, and parmesan in the coming year. They still need to remove GMOs and go completely organic with the rest of their ingredients.
– Increasing organics across other food lines, and increasing the number of organic products offered by Plum.”
About 75% of Campbell’s products — in addition to its namesake soups, Campbell also makes brands like Pepperidge Farm, Bolthouse Farms, Arnott’s, V8, Swanson, Pace, Prego, among others — use ingredients made from corn, canola, sugar beets, or soybeans. Almost all of the farmers producing those crops in the U.S. use GMO seed.
So for a company like Campbell, there’s no way it can simply stop using GMO ingredients and still produce the quantity of product that its customers demand. In fact, the company has no intention to make such a change because it maintains that GMOs have been repeatedly proven safe and that they may be needed to meet the increased demand for food around the globe.
Campbell cites that figure — from a survey conducted by our colleagues at Consumer Reports — as evidence that American consumers have a desire for more transparency from the companies that produce their food.
“We are operating with a ‘Consumer First’ mindset,” says Morrison. “We put the consumer at the center of everything we do. That’s how we’ve built trust for nearly 150 years. We have always believed that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.”
Campbell has fought state-level GMO labeling requirements in California and Oregon, arguing that labeling regulations that vary from state to state create a patchwork that is too complex and costly for large food producers to deal with. Instead, it believes that a national GMO labeling standard would be best for everyone.
“We now believe that proposing a mandatory national solution is necessary,” says Morrison. “Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell.”
Campbell currently labels its products sold in Vermont like the soup can shown above. Below the ingredients list, it includes a disclosure stating something like “Partially Produced With Genetic Engineering,” directing consumers to its whatsinmyfood.com site for more information, including a list of the various GMO ingredients it uses across its range of products.
The company tells the NY Times that it will be working with the FDA and other regulators to craft the language for standard, nationwide GMO label for its products.
Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, applauded today’s announcement.
“Campbell Soup has taken an immense step forward today. Their decision to disclose which of its ingredients are genetically engineered will give consumers the information they want and deserve, even going beyond what’s required in Vermont’s labeling law,” says Halloran.
A similar sentiment was voiced by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.
“Campbell’s decision to add GMO labeling to their products is a courageous, commendable act of pro-consumer leadership,” said Blumenthal in a statement. “This commonsense decision by Campbell’s – and all of Campbell’s brands, including the iconic Connecticut company Pepperidge Farm – will enable consumers to make informed decisions about the food they and their families eat.”
Campbell joined other major food companies in fighting efforts to impose mandatory labeling in California and Washington State, spending more than $1 million, according to the Environmental Working Group. It is also a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group that has spent millions trying to get a bill passed in Congress that would make labeling voluntary and pre-empt state labeling efforts.
“We will withdraw from any coalition that doesn’t support mandatory labeling,” Ms. Morrison said. “We were involved in fighting the state ballots in California and Washington out of concern over a state-by-state patchwork, yet we didn’t participate in the fights in any other state beyond those. Any money we did spend after that was in support of seeking a federal solution.”