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Starlink Found in Kellogg Products

March 8, 2001

GMOs Are Found in Morningstar Farms Products
Food: Kellogg says discovery of genetically modified ingredients was
an isolated incident. No decision has been made on recalls.

By MELINDA FULMER, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

New laboratory tests have found that veggie burgers and meat-free
corn dogs made by natural foods brand Morningstar Farms contain
genetically modified soy and the controversial genetically altered
feed corn, StarLink, that has not been approved for human consumption.

The tests, commissioned by the activist group Greenpeace,
highlight the difficulty that even natural foods companies are having
in assuring customers that their products do not contain genetically
modified ingredients.

Kellogg Co., which bought Morningstar's parent company,
Worthington Foods, in late 1999, had told customers in a string of
letters and e-mails about its conversion to a soy protein that is not
produced through biotechnology. Its products were not labeled as
GMO-free, however.

Kellogg's own tests confirmed recently that the soy protein it
received from its suppliers was genetically altered.

"This was an isolated incident," said Chris Ervin, a Kellogg
spokeswoman. "It was a case of a supplier not providing ingredients to
our specifications."

Kellogg executives have yet to decide whether to recall any of
the products. But they have contacted the Food and Drug
Administration, which recalled hundreds of StarLink-tainted products
last year and are submitting products to an independent laboratory to
be tested for the controversial corn.

FDA officials say they have insufficient information to decide
whether to recall the products or investigate Kellogg's claims.

One of the tests, conducted by Fairfield, Iowa-based Genetic ID,
indicated that 1% or less of the corn in Morningstar's corn dogs is of
the StarLink variety, which was approved in animal feed but never for
humans for fear that the slow-digesting proteins might cause allergic
reactions.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said less than
1% of the corn set to be sold to farmers this spring contained
StarLink corn seed, and the government has offered to buy that seed to
keep it off the market.

Industry analysts say they don't think Kellogg is trying to
mislead customers, but is simply struggling along with most other food
companies to police its supply chain.

"A lot of the industry would like to go GMO-free and use some
kind of insignia on their label, but today they don't have complete
assurance down the [supply] chain," said Grant Ferrier, editor of San
Diego-based Nutrition Business Journal.

Still, a Greenpeace official questioned how vigilant Kellogg has
been in conducting testing or pressuring its suppliers to screen out
genetically modified ingredients.

In another report Greenpeace commissioned from RHM Technologies
in Britain, a biochemist estimated that 50% of the soy in the sample
of Morningstar Harvest Burgers was of the Roundup Ready variety, a
genetically modified soybean that is resistant to a popular weed
killer.

"It's very hard to explain 50% of the soy [in a product] being
genetically engineered as just a slip up," said Charles Margulis, who
heads Greenpeace's genetic engineering campaign. "This seems to be a
company that just doesn't care."

Executives of the nation's largest natural foods chain say they
can attest to the difficulties of trying to be GMO-free.

More than a year after claiming it was going to ban GMOs from its
house-brand products, Whole Foods Market Inc. still hasn't
reformulated all of its products including its sodas and sandwich
cookies and nutrition bars, said Denis Ring, who oversees
manufacturing of its 365-brand product line.

"I don't think anyone is trying to mislead consumers," Ring says.
"I just think the system right now isn't very conducive to segregation
[of these products]."

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