Kraft Foods today recalled all taco shells that it sells 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 found similar results, the company said.
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. The company said there appeared to be no threat to human health from the corn.
Guided by One Priority
“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, which made the taco shells at a plant in Mexico using corn meal purchased from a Texas mill, said in a statement that the government should never have allowed farmers to grow a biotech crop that isn’t approved for human consumption.
A Biotech Setback
“All of us — government, industry and the scientific community — need to work on ways to prevent this kind of situation from ever happening again,” said Holden.
The taco shells were among 23 corn products that representatives of the Friends of the Earth submitted to Fairfield, 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.
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.