Feds Investigate Taco Shell Ingredient

ByABC News
September 18, 2000, 7:10 AM

Sept. 18 -- Federal regulators are investigating whether a variety of genetically modified corn that hasnt been approved for human consumption was used in taco shells sold in grocery stores under the Taco Bell brand.

The Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a consortium of seven consumer organizations based in Washington, D.C, tested 25 processed corn products sold in the supermarket, such as cornmeal, tortilla chips and taco shells, and found Taco Bell taco shells contained the unapproved ingredient triggering a government investigation.

Government To Verify Findings

It remains unclear, at least from the governments perspective, what percentage of the Taco Bell shell products contain the genetically modified corn, if they do at all, and if, in fact, the corn poses any health threat to the public. The Environmental Protection Agency is still studying the safety of the product for human use.

The group, opposed to genetically modified foods, alerted the government about the results of its testing, and requested a recall of the taco shells. Should the government verify the finding, a question would be raised as to how an item that currently is not deemed safe for consumption could enter the food supply.

The corn, genetically engineered to, in effect, provide its own pesticide and kill a type of insect, wasapproved in 1998 for use in animal feed only because of unresolvedquestions about whether it could cause allergies to humans.

EPA and Foodand Drug Administration officials said they had no test results showing the corn had made its way to grocery store shelves, butwere investigating the allegations.

We are looking into what the group found, said FDA spokesman Brad Stone. We and the EPA will look at the data and if necessary do independent testing. Depending on the findings, we will take the appropriate action to remove the product from the market.

Our concern, of course, is whether or not this product, which is registered for animal feed, is somehow illegally finding its wayinto food that people eat, said David Cohen, an EPA spokesman.