Safeway Recalls Taco Shells

by Associated Press
 10:55 a.m. Oct. 12, 2000 PDT

WASHINGTON -- Safeway Inc. has removed taco shells from its stores after
tests showed they may contain a variety of genetically engineered corn
that isn't approved for food use.

It is the same biotech corn that prompted a nationwide recall of taco
shells Sept. 22 by Kraft Foods. Safeway pulled its shells Wednesday
night after learning of the test results that were performed for a
coalition of environmental groups that are opposed to biotech food.

"In something like this we're very close to our customers and we wanted
to act out of an abundance of caution," Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling
said Thursday.

The Kraft and Safeway taco shells were produced by different
manufacturers but contained the same variety of corn developed by
Aventis CropScience. Safeway's product was made by Mission Foods Co. of
Irving, Texas.

Safeway's action applied to shells sold under both its private label
and the Mission name. Customers who purchased the shells are being
offered refunds. Safeway had been assured by Mission Foods that the corn
was not in its products, Dowling said. Officials with Mission Foods did
not immediately return phone calls Thursday.

California-based Safeway has 1,400 stores in the United States,
primarily in the West.

The corn, known as StarLink, hasn't been approved for human consumption
because of unresolved questions about whether it could cause allergic
reactions in people. The corn is allowed only in animal feed.

FDA officials say there is no known health risk from the corn but that
they are testing a variety of corn products for its presence.

"This is the second contamination incident in the past couple of
weeks," said Mark Helm, a spokesman for the environmental group Friends
of the Earth. "It seems pretty clear that the Food and Drug
Administration is doing a miserable job ensuring the safety of the
American food supply."

Aventis has suspended sales of the corn and has agreed to reimburse the
government for buying and handling all of this year's crop to ensure
that it does not get into the food supply.

The StarLink corn was grown on about 300,000 acres this year
nationwide, or about 0.4 percent of the total U.S. corn acreage.

The Safeway taco shells were purchased at a Washington-area store Sept.
28 and tested Wednesday by a firm in Iowa at the request of the
coalition known as the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, Helm said.

The StarLink corn has become an embarrassment to the biotech industry,
and food manufacturers have been meeting almost daily with government
officials to deal with the issue. "We want to make sure that everything
is done on the part of the government to reassure consumers that the
food supply is safe," said Gene Grabowski, a spokesman for the Grocery
Manufacturers of America.

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