Kraft Recalls Biotech Taco Shells

ByPhilip Brasher

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 23, 2000 -- Kraft Foods today recalled all taco shellsthat it sells in supermarkets under the Taco Bell brand after testsconfirmed they were made with genetically engineered corn thatisn’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 aboutwhether it could cause allergic reactions in people.

Tests commissioned by an anti-biotech environmental group foundtraces of the corn in taco shells that had been purchased in aWashington suburb, and tests performed for Kraft at an independentlab found similar results, the company said.

Kraft, a division of Philip Morris Inc., said it woulddiscontinue production of the shells until it can be sure there isno more of the genetically engineered corn in the meal it buys. Thecompany said there appeared to be no threat to human health fromthe corn.

Guided by One Priority

“As soon as we learned that there might be an issue in thesupply chain we purchased from, we have been guided by onepriority, the safety of our products and their compliance with allregulatory requirements,” said Betsy Holden, Kraft’s chiefexecutive.

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

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

Kraft, which made the taco shells at a plant in Mexico usingcorn meal purchased from a Texas mill, said in a statement that thegovernment should never have allowed farmers to grow a biotech cropthat 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 everhappening again,” said Holden.

The taco shells were among 23 corn products that representativesof the Friends of the Earth submitted to Fairfield, Iowa-basedGenetic 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 tohuman health and the environment. In Britain, the crops have beendenounced as “Frankenfood,” but criticism in the United Stateshas been muted.

Government regulators insist the crops are safe, and the EPAreleased a study earlier this week saying none of theinsect-resistant crops have been developed so far pose anysignificant risks.

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