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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 16:39 GMT


Fast-food outlets turn against GM food

Some restaurants are banning GM ingredients

A survey has revealed further signs that consumers are turning against genetically-modified (GM) food.

BBC Correspondent June Kelly: The Anti-GM campaign is building
Almost half of the UK's leading fast-food outlets are turning their backs on GM food, according to research conducted by environmental group Friends of the Earth.

The organisation asked 11 fast food chains with 50 or more outlets whether they were going to remove GM ingredients from the food they sold.

[ image:  ]
Between them the 11 companies have 3,548 outlets across the UK.

Three of the chains - Wimpy, Pizza Express and Domino's Pizza - already believe they are GM-free. Two others - Burger King and KFC - are in the process of removing all GM ingredients from their products. And McDonald's and Perfect Pizza said they were currently considering going GM-free.

However, Deep Pan Pizza, Pizza Hut and Bella Pasta said they had no plans to take GM ingredients off their menus.

One other outlet - Starburger - was unable to give an answer.

"We are delighted that so many food chains will soon be serving their customers GM-free food," Pet Riley, senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

"The fact that these outlets are listening is great news for consumers - unfortunately, the government still continues to ignore the public mood."

The survey results were published on the day that supermarket chain Asda announced it had called on all its suppliers of own-brand food to refrain from using GM ingredients.

Asda own-brand ban

The frozen food chain Iceland was the first supermarket to ban GM ingredients from own-brands. Other stores like Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencers, Tesco and Safeway label GM food on own brands.

The consumer-driven move away from GM products is putting further pressure on the government to take action of its own.

Ministers are to unveil proposals for GM labelling within the next week which will compel restaurants, cafes and shops to make clear whether their food contains GM ingredients.

But environmental groups say the proposed legislation will have a loophole that means food outlets will not be obliged to tell the consumer if what they are selling them has a GM source.

Serious concern about genetically-modified food came to a head last month after a group of scientists made a public show of support for a disgraced colleague who said that rats fed GM potatoes suffered ill health.

Dr Arpad Pusztai was suspended last August after speaking to journalists about the results of a study he conducted at the Rowett Research Institute (RRI) in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Since then, groups including the Consumers' Association, organic campaigners the Soil Association and the Food Commission have stepped up demands for government action to restrict GM food.

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