Nestle Denies Wrongdoing In China Gene-Modified Food Flap
Published on Thursday, December 5, 2002 by the Dow Jones Newswire
Nestle Denies Wrongdoing In China Gene-Modified Food Flap
by Andrew Batson

BEIJING --Swiss foodmaker Nestle on Thursday denied any wrongdoing after several Chinese newspapers accused it of violating the country's rules on labeling genetically-modified food products.

The controversy arose after local newspapers picked up on recent charges by the environmental group Greenpeace that Nestle is continuing to sell products with genetically-modified ingredients in Asia, even though public pressure in Europe has forced it stop using such ingredients for products sold there.

In recent days, several dailies have run front-page stories that repeated the allegations, and quoted Chinese officials saying Nestle hadn't submitted any application to label its products as containing genetically-modified organisms, as new rules issued early this year appear to require.

In a statement, Nestle said: "Nestle's products in China...are in strict compliance with the Chinese government regulations and Nestle's own very strict standards respecting international regulations and guidance."

A spokeswoman for Nestle, who asked that her name not be used, added: "The rules on labeling of genetically-modified food products issued in March of this year apply to imported agricultural products. Nestle's products are processed final-use food products and aren't covered by these rules."

Nestle hasn't explicitly confirmed or denied that the specific products mentioned in the news reports contain genetically-modified ingredients, but said in its statement: "Genetically modified agricultural produce can be found in China as in the rest of the world, where their use is in line with local regulations."

In June, Greenpeace Hong Kong said it has been testing Nestle products for genetically-modified ingredients for three years, and found that six products tested positive.

It said the six products are sold in Hong Kong under the names Pak Fook Fresh Soya Milk, Pak Fook Beancurd Dessert, Pak Fook Hi-calcium Life Soya Milk, Nestle Infant Cereal (apple flavored), Nestle Crunch Chocolate, and Tropical Sundae, an ice-cream product.

The most likely culprit would be genetically-modified soybeans, which are widely used by the U.S. and other major soy producers. China is a large importer of soybeans, but Nestle's spokeswoman said: "99% of Nestle's China products are made in China and use domestic materials."

Nestle continues to defend its use of genetically-modified food ingredients, citing research that it says shows that genetically-modified foods are as safe as conventional ones.

"Nestle supports a responsible application of gene technology for food production based on sound scientific research," the company said in its statement.

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