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We at Utz appreciate and respect your concern and any personal decisions you have made regarding your desire to avoid foods containing material made from genetically modified organisms (GMO's). Certainly, there has been plenty of negative press, particularly from events occurring in Europe, to seemingly cast some doubt on the long-term safety of such products on our health and the environment. However, in trying to be completely objective about this emotional issue, all foods that are currently marketed in the United States, that have been derived from agricultural crops improved through biotechnology, have been subjected to extensive testing and scrutiny before the FDA allowed them to be commercialized. Hence, the FDA does currently have a structured framework designed to prevent any unsafe biotech food from being introduced into the marketplace. Whenever genetic manipulation alters the nutritional content of a food, or introduces an allergen not previously present, FDA policy requires mandatory labeling of food products containing GMO's. However, in the absence of such alterations or safety issues, no disclosure statement for the presence of GMO's is currently required on food packaging labels.
Generally speaking, about half of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States, primary ingredients used in the snack food industry, are currently being produced from seeds that contain genetically modified DNA, engineered to create a variety of benefits for both the grower and the consumer. All our suppliers for various forms/derivatives of corn and soybeans have a wide range of sources that may subsequently be co-mingled. In addition, it is nearly impossible to secure non-GMO certificates of purity in adequate quantities due to inherent problems of contamination with GMO crops from using common harvesting and other processing equipment and from accidental cross pollination. Consequently, the widespread availability of biotech foods makes it very difficult to completely segregate biotech ingredients from non-biotech ingredients. Wherever such segregation is still possible, verification for the presence or absence of GM protein by independent laboratory analysis could make this cost prohibitive.
In our non-corn based snacks, corn, as well as soybeans, are sources of many types of ingredients used for various functional purposes, e.g., starch, maltodextrin, dextrose, soy protein isolate, etc. These ingredients are used in a number of our topical potato chip seasonings and in our cheese-coated snacks. It is estimated that more than 60% of U.S. grocery products may contain ingredients from genetically modified crops. There are simply not enough non-GMO crops and their derived food ingredients produced in the United States to keep our grocery stores supplied.
A point of emphasis ought to be made here. This company, like so many other food manufacturers who are trying their best to stay successful in a very competitive business environment, never actively sought out to use ingredients containing GMO's. We were never given a choice on this matter. This was literally thrust upon us by the biotechnology and agricultural industries that obviously support it for its benefits and by the federal agencies who approved it. These are the forces at play that you should direct your comments.
Though a small percentage of the domestic potato crop has been genetically modified, Utz currently uses only non-GM potatoes in our potato chip operations. Also, none of the wheat flour and popcorn we use is under GM classification. Lastly, since genetically modified DNA is found only in the protein portion of plants, the highly refined, bleached and deodorized vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and peanut) Utz uses would not contain any GM protein.
Below is a list of Utz branded snacks, which we manufacture, that do not currently contain any genetically modified protein:
- Natural Lightly Salted Potato Chips
- Natural Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Potato Chips
- Natural Gourmet Medley Potato Chips
- Natural Reduced Fat Potato Chips
- Natural Red, White and Blue Gourmet Medley Potato Chips
- Organic Blue Tortilla Chips
- Organic White Tortilla Chips
- Organic Yellow Tortilla Chips
- Organic 7-Whole Grain Pretzel Sticks
- Pretzel Nuggets
- Pumpernickel Pretzel Sticks
Our corporate position on the use of food ingredients containing GMO's is simple and straightforward. First, since we are a basic food manufacturer and not an independent research firm, we feel obligated to follow the endorsement and support of the FDA, USDA, EPA, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Dietetic Association, Institute of Food Technologist, the World Health Organization, and most recently, the National Academy of Sciences. A vast amount of food biotechnology information has been carefully evaluated over the last ten years and found to pose very little risk to society. The consumer issues involved here are ideological and emotional, and not scientific. Secondly, though Utz Quality Foods currently has a number of products that are essentially GMO-free, we do manufacture some snacks that unavoidably contain GMO's. Consequently, we cannot honestly formulate a corporate policy that would represent ourselves to the public as a 100% GMO-free company. We essentially have no realistic choice in this matter. To refrain from doing so would severely disrupt our manufacturing and sales operations.
The health and economic benefits of recombinant DNA technology are too numerous and far-reaching to summarize in this letter. If you are interested in obtaining more information about biotechnology, we suggest you contact the International Food Information Council (IFIC) at 202-296-6540. IFIC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to communicate technical information on food safety and nutrition. You may also want to check out the Alliance for Better Foods on the Internet. Their website address is www.betterfoods.org.