Three days after the deadline for the labelling of transgenic foods, Australian health authorities have admitted that they have no way of checking that foods labelled GE-free do not actually contain genetically modified ingredients.

Since Friday, Australian retailers have had to inform consumers whether products on sale contain GM ingredients, but in several cases the date passed by before new protocols for checks on unlabelled GM products were developed.

This is certainly the case in Queensland, where Queensland Health environmental health manager, Sophie Dwyer, told the Courier Mail that a national framework will not be developed before the new year, saying: “We are still refining how we’re going to go about the audit process because the [food standards] code is still in transition.”

Mitchell Hooke, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, also told the paper that the current methods of testing for GM ingredients are “hopelessly inadequate” and prohibitively expensive: “We’re talking big bucks, and even then you can get what you call ‘false positives’.”

Rebecca Smith, food policy officer for the Australian Consumers’ Association, added that the government would have to move fast if it wants to avoid consumers losing confidence: “If it’s not enforced, it will come back to haunt the regulator,” she said.

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