20 prominent US manufacturers pledge to avoid using cloned animals in food

Posted by Editorial on 15th September 2008

The Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth has announced that 20 of America’s leading food producers and retailers have stated that they will not use cloned animals in their food. The companies include Kraft Foods; General Mills; Gerber/Nestle; Campbell Soup Company; Gossner Foods; Smithfield Foods; Ben & Jerry’s; Amy’s Kitchen; California Pizza Kitchen restaurants; Hain Celestial; Cloverland, Oberweis, Prairie, Byrne, Plainview, and Clover-Stornetta Dairies; and grocers PCC Natural Markets, Albertsons, SUPERVALU, and Harris Teeter.

The move by these companies represents a growing industry trend of responding to consumer demand for better food safety, environmental, and animal welfare standards, according to the Center for Food Safety.”This rejection of food from clones sends a strong message to biotech firms that their products may not find a market,” claimed Lisa Bunin, PhD, Campaigns Coordinator at the Center for Food Safety. “American consumers don’t want to eat food from clones or their offspring, and these companies have realistically anticipated low market acceptance for this new and untested technology.” This sentiment is reportedly echoed by General Mills in their letter to the Center which identified “consumer acceptance” as an important consideration with respect to the potential use of ingredients from clones in their products.

Kraft Foods expressed a similar position in a letter stating that, although they defer to the conclusions of the FDA on the safety of ingredients from cloned animals, “product safety is not the only factor we consider in our products. We must also carefully consider additional factors such as consumer benefits and acceptance…and research in the U.S. indicates that consumers are currently not receptive to ingredients from cloned animals.”

In May 2008, the Center for Food Safety began reaching out to companies involved in the production, use, and sale of meat and milk products, regarding their position on the use of food from clones. In response, three of the top-earning food manufacturing companies indicated that they will not be using ingredients from clones.

In addition, Friends of the Earth has worked with leading US grocers to determine their policy on the use of cloned animals and their offspring in their food, and presented them with over 8,000 signatures from consumers who reject products made from these animals. To date, Albertsons, SUPERVALU and Harris Teeter have informed Friends of the Earth that they will not sell products from cloned animals. “Grocers are recognising that people do not want to eat food from cloned animals,” suggested Gillian Madill, Genetic Technologies Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

A Deloitte study in the US earlier this year offered some support for Friends of the Earth’s conclusion, with almost 80 per cent of those surveyed believing that meat from cloned animals should be labelled as such in food stores and 50 per cent of consumers surveyed claim meat from cloned animals should not be sold in the United States.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) outlined their opinion on the food safety issues in July following from the EC for advice. Proffesor Vittorio Silano, chair of EFSA’s Scientific Committee, indicated that food safety issues did not appear prevalent. “It is clear there are significant animal health and welfare issues for surrogate mothers and clones that can be more frequent and severe than for conventionally bred animals. For cattle and pigs, food safety concerns are considered unlikely,” he advised. “No clear evidence has emerged to suggest any differences between food products from clones or their offspring, in terms of food safety, compared to products from conventionally bred animals. But we must acknowledge that the evidence base, while growing and showing consistent findings, is still small.”

Prof. Silano added that there is no easy answer to the issue due to the current lack of conclusive evidence. “EFSA cannot always offer simple answers or reassurances,” he stated. “Complex and evolving science and technology, where data can be limited, do not offer such neat solutions. Our advice is guided by the science and will help inform consideration of any future EU measures in relation to animal clones and products obtained from these animals and their offspring.”