Kraft Foods recalls Taco Bell Taco Shells Containing Corn Not Approved for Human Consumption : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Kraft Foods Recalls Taco Shells


Center of Food Safety legal director Joseph Mendelson III AP/Michael DiBari [27K] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- WASHINGTON (AP)  Kraft Foods on Friday recalled all taco shells sold nationwide in supermarkets under the Taco Bell brand after tests confirmed they were made with genetically engineered corn that isn't approved for human consumption.

The corn, one of the least grown of several biotech varieties, is approved for use only in animal feed because of questions about whether it could cause allergic reactions in people.

Tests commissioned by an anti-biotech environmental group found traces of the corn in taco shells that had been purchased in a Washington suburb, and tests performed for Kraft at an independent lab showed the corn in ``multiple'' samples of the product, the company said.

The recall does not apply to shells sold through Taco Bell restaurants, but Taco Bell Corp. said it will replace its shells next week. The company said it buys shells through the same Mexican processor that supplies Kraft, and tests for the corn have proven inconclusive. Taco Bell ordered the plant to switch suppliers for its corn flour.

Taco Bell under attack -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Food and Drug Administration said there was no known threat to human health from the corn.

Kraft, a division of Philip Morris Inc., said it would discontinue production of the shells until it can be sure there is no more of the genetically engineered corn in the meal it buys.

Kraft did not know how many packages were in homes, stores or in distribution channels, but a spokesman said it was safe to say the number is in the millions.

``As soon as we learned that there might be an issue in the supply chain we purchased from, we have been guided by one priority, the safety of our products and their compliance with all regulatory requirements,'' said Betsy Holden, Kraft's chief executive.

The nationwide recall includes packages labeled Taco Bell Home Originals 12 Taco Shells, Taco Bell Home Originals 18 Taco Shells and Taco Bell Home Originals Taco Dinner (12 shells, sauce and seasoning).

The corn, which contains a bacterium gene that makes it toxic to an insect pest, is produced by Aventis Corp. and goes under the trade name StarLink.

Kraft said in a statement that the government should not allow farmers to grow a biotech crop that isn't approved for human consumption. The taco shells were made for Kraft in Mexico by Sabritas Mexicali, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., with meal processed by Dallas-based Azteca Milling at a plant in Plainview, Texas.

``All of us  government, industry and the scientific community  need to work on ways to prevent this kind of situation from ever happening again,'' Holden said.

The taco shells were among 23 corn products that representatives of the Friends of the Earth submitted to Iowa-based Genetic ID Inc. for testing for the Cry9C protein.

The Kraft recall was a setback to the biotechnology industry, which has been battling critics who claim the crops are a threat to human health and the environment. In Britain, the crops have been denounced as ``Frankenfood,'' but criticism in the United States has been muted. In the United States, companies have been spending millions of dollars on a pro-biotech advertising campaign.

``It is unclear how this occurred, but we must find out,'' said Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The recall ``demonstrates that consumers are not being protected by the federal agencies assigned this critical responsibility,'' said Rebecca Goldburg, senior scientist at Environmental Defense.

Government regulators insist the crops are safe, and the EPA released a study earlier this week saying none of the insect-resistant crops have been developed so far pose any significant risks.

FDA officials called the recall a ``prudent step'' and said it was continuing an investigation to determine how the corn got into the taco shells. Earlier this year, the agency proposed a series of steps for increasing government scrutiny of biotech food, including requiring mandatory safety reviews of new products.

``We're very confident about the process that's in place in terms of ensuring the safety of the public,'' said James Maryanski, FDA's biotechnology coordinator.

Kraft's action comes on the heels of Bridgestone/Firestone's massive recall of tires on Ford Explorers and other light trucks.

Consumers should return the taco shells to the store where they were bought for full refunds, Kraft said.

The StarLink corn was grown on about 300,000 acres this year nationwide, or about 0.4 percent of the total U.S. corn acreage.

On the Net: Kraft:

On the Net: EPA:

Food and Drug Administration:

-- Margo (, September 22, 2000

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