Sam Jockel Quoted in Article on the Labeling of BE Foods

Date: Apr 08, 2019

Keller and Heckman associate Sam Jockel was quoted in an article on the FoodProcessing.com web site on the labeling of bioengineered (BE) foods, formerly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) 

Before the national BE labeling law, there was universal fear among the bigger food and beverage processors that disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients would scare off consumers and that smaller “natural” food companies would suddenly rule the world. But while mandatory national BE labeling won’t be required until Jan. 1, 2022, a handful of food processors and brand marketers have been making that label declaration for years, and they’re still in business.  

Fearing a patchwork of 50 different state laws requiring BE labeling, support grew for a single, pre-emptive federal law, even among bigger food companies and legislators who had opposed the idea.  After much debate, the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard” was passed in July 2016, which assigned the job of creating a standard for BE/GMO labeling to USDA and established a July 29, 2018, deadline for publishing that rule.  USDA’s final rule was published on December 21, 2018.  USDA came up with a staged enactment process, whereby processors should begin identifying products they’ll have to label as BE on Jan. 1, 2020, with full compliance by Jan. 1, 2022.  The federal law pre-empted the Vermont law and laid to rest any fears of multiple state labeling regulations.

“If you are currently using labels that were in compliance with Vermont’s genetic engineering labeling law, those can be used up until [Dec. 31, 2021], one day before the mandatory compliance date,” says Sam Jockel, an attorney at Keller and Heckman.  Formerly, as a counsel at USDA, he assisted with the drafting of the proposed BE rule.