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Thursday, March 18, 1999 Published at 14:54 GMT


A plate full of trouble

Restaurants of all types will be hit by the new legislation

Strict new regulations over the labelling of genetically-modified (GM) foods may be good news for some consumers but for many in the catering industry they leave a bitter taste.

Food under the microscope
The new rules will apply to the entire food industry. Restaurants, shops, food manufacturers, catering companies - even hot dog stands - will have to conform.

[ image: Even street sellers will have to inform their customers]
Even street sellers will have to inform their customers
Government ministers say the new regulations will address consumer concerns about GM products and give them real choice.

Most UK supermarkets already practice a GM labelling policy. Many restaurants, however, are reluctant to do so saying the so-called choice it gives customers is only an illusion.

Mike Gottlieb: The new rules are a big burden for caterers
"All people really want to know when they go out to eat is whether their food is safe. They do not want to have to make a choice between safe and unsafe," says the president of the Restaurateurs Association Mike Gottlieb.

"You also have to remember that our suppliers are not obliged to tell us whether their food contains GM ingredients or not," he added.

Some of his colleagues in the trade also object to the extra work created by having to inform customers about GM ingredients. There are the legal implications to consider if they get their labelling wrong too.

But safety concerns have led some restaurants to ban GM foods altogether.

[ image: Some say labelling menus could take the romance out of dining out]
Some say labelling menus could take the romance out of dining out
Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson campaigns against the use of GM ingredients and has banned them from his restaurant Wiz.

He thinks the rest of the food industry should follow suit.

"We are a generation away from knowing the effects of these products and until then I would urge the rest of the trade to ban them too," he says.

Many diners in London agree. "I think smart restaurants will now announce themselves as GM free which will be a selling point," says one diner.

"Labelling GM foods on the menu could take the romance out of eating out. But in the long run I would welcome the move," was the view of another.

[ image: In Eddie Brockley's cafe customers are only interested in the taste and price]
In Eddie Brockley's cafe customers are only interested in the taste and price
But for some, the legislation makes no difference. Eddie Brockley runs a transport café in Wigan.

The portions are big, the menu is simple and GM foods are not an issue.

"The transport drivers that I get in here like to see a plate of food in front of them which is tasty and does not cost a lot. They are not bothered if it is genetically modified or not, " he said.

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