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GENETICALLY ENGINEERED
CONTAMINANT FOUND IN SAFEWAY TACO SHELLS

Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups, today called for an immediate recall of taco shells produced and distributed by the Safeway Company. In a second round of independent testing, samples of Safeway brand taco shells were found to contain genetically engineered Starlink™ corn. The corn, not approved for direct human consumption, is the same contaminant discovered by the Genetically Engineered Food Alert in the Taco Bell® brand taco shells recalled by FDA and Kraft Company in September 2000.

Starlink™, a corn that contains a genetically engineered plant pesticide, marketed by the biotechnology company Aventis is currently deemed fit only for animal consumption by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Aventis has applied for an exemption to this restriction even though the EPA warned that Aventis' data indicate that "Cry9C exhibits some characteristics of known allergens." Cyr9C was found to be heat stabile and resistant to stomach acids and enzymes, indicating a potential allergen. Possible health effects of food allergens range from nausea to anaphylactic shock, but are not currently known due to lack of adequate testing by government and industry.

Recall Demanded: The coalition filed a letter with the FDA calling on the Agency to recall the Safeway brand taco shells.

"Safeway should follow Kraft Foods and recall the genetically contaminated taco shells," said Larry Bohlen, Director of Health and Environment Programs at Friends of the Earth. "Two contamination incidents in one month show that the FDA is doing a miserable job protecting the American food supply."

The coalition also sent a letter to Steven Burd, Chairman and CEO of Safeway Company, requesting that the company voluntarily remove all its brand taco shells from grocery store shelves.

FDA Oversight: Genetically Engineered Food Alert condemned the presence, as indicated by the test results, of the genetically engineered ingredient and called the second contamination incident evidence of FDA's failure to provide adequate oversight of food biotechnology corporations and food producers.

"The recall of Taco Bell taco shells distributed by Kraft and the recent finding of Starlink™ corn in Safeway products underscores the need for stronger government regulation over genetically engineered foods," said Philip Clapp, President of the National Environmental Trust. "While these genetically engineered ingredients continue to enter the market, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuses to mandate pre-market safety testing of genetically engineered ingredients or labeling for consumers' right to know."

The coalition has called on the FDA to test for the presence of Cry9C corn in all products containing non-organic yellow corn #2, the class of corn to which Cry9C belongs. The coalition also called on the FDA to conduct a thorough investigation into numerous reports of illness made to FDA and alleged to have been caused by consumption of contaminated taco shells. The FDA is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to protect the public against genetically engineered plant pesticides, such as the particular kind of corn containing Cry9C, that are not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

FDA Recall of Taco Bell taco shells: FDA officially recalled the Taco Bell taco shells on October 2, 2000, after the Kraft Company voluntarily recalled the taco shells from grocery store shells. The Agency declared a class II recall, defined as "a situation in which the use of, or exposure to, a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health effects."

Genetically Engineered Food Alert called on the FDA to take the same action on the Safeway brand taco shells. "This product poses the same potential health effects as the Taco Bell taco shells, therefore the FDA needs to immediately remove them from the market to protect consumers," stated Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety.

Aventis Company to Curb Distribution of Starlink™ Aventis, under the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has agreed to purchase the Starlink™ crops that are currently being grown and harvested in the United States; an undertaking estimated to cost the company $68 million, according to corn industry officials. An estimated 45 million bushels of Starlink™ corn were grown this year by American farmers.

About the Genetically Engineered Food Alert and gefoodalert.org: Genetically Engineered Food Alert founding members include: Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, National Environmental Trust, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network North America, and the State Public Interest Research Groups.

Genetically Engineered Food Alert supports the removal of genetically engineered ingredients from grocery store shelves unless they are adequately safety tested and labeled. The campaign provides web-based opportunities for individuals to express concern about genetically engineered food and fact sheets on health, environmental and economic information about genetically engineered food. The campaign is endorsed by more than 250 scientists, religious leaders, doctors, chefs, environmental and health leaders, as well as farm groups.

Written by: Friends of the Earth


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