The Vermont Attorney General recently adopted regulations giving effect to Vermont’s Act 120, which imposes genetically engineered food labeling requirements. Specifically, the Vermont Attorney General established Consumer Protection Rule C.P. 121 (the “Rule”), which in general requires manufacturers of human food or beverages that are genetically engineered and sold at retail in Vermont to make disclosures on the food label indicating that the food is genetically engineered. The Rule permits certain disclosures, such as “Produced with Genetic Engineering,” “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering,” or “May be Produced with Genetic Engineering.” These disclosures must be easily found, which requires, among other things, bold type-face and a minimum font size. The Rule also prohibits the use of the word “natural” and words of similar import on advertisements, signs at the point of purchase or in the retail premises, and food labels for food that is produced partially or entirely with genetic engineering. The Rule does not apply to several categories of foods or drinks, including certain animal-based foods, alcoholic beverages, and food served at restaurants. In addition to providing the required disclosures, manufacturers must retain records demonstrating their compliance with the Rule. The Attorney General may fine violators a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day for each group of products that fail to comply. In a recent case, members of the U.S. food industry challenged the constitutionality of the Vermont laws and unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction against the state.
TIP: Companies that sell beverages or food in Vermont should review Act 120, the Rule, and their labeling practices to ensure that they comply with the new laws by the July 1, 2016 effective date.