GE Food Alert Coalition Press Release on
Kraft/Taco Bell GE Corn Scandal

Contact: Larry Bohlen, FoE, 202-783-7400 x251
Monday, September 18 David King or Amanda Gordon
NET, 202-887-8800

Contamination Found in Taco Bell Taco Shells, Food Safety
Coalition Demands Recall by Taco Bell, Philip Morris

Genetically engineered corn not approved for human consumption
may be in other products, too.

Washington, DC * Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a coalition of health,
consumer and environmental groups, today demanded that taco shells marketed
using the Taco Bell name be immediately removed from grocery store shelves
across the country. In independent testing, a sample of the taco shells
was found to contain a form of genetically engineered corn not approved for
direct human consumption.

Test results obtained by Genetically Engineered Food Alert member group
Friends of the Earth from an independent laboratory indicate the presence
of Cry9C corn, a variety of genetically engineered corn not approved for
direct human consumption, in Taco Bell taco shells sold at grocery stores.
Cry9C, a plant pesticide marketed by biotechnology company Aventis under
the name of StarLink*, 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 has warned that Aventis'
data indicate "that Cry9C exhibits some characteristics of known
allergens." Cry9C was found to be heat stabile and resistant to stomach
acids and enzymes, indicating that it could be a potential allergen.
Possible health effects of this category of allergen include nausea and
anaphylactic shock, but are not currently known due to a lack of adequate
testing by government and industry.

"According to the tests, Taco Bell and Philip Morris have used a
genetically engineered ingredient that could put the health of their
customers at risk," said Larry Bohlen, Health and Environment Programs
Director at Friends of the Earth. The taco shells tested were distributed
by Kraft, a subsidiary of Philip Morris, under the name Taco Bell.
"Consumers need to know whether this is just the tip of the iceberg."

Friends of the Earth plans to submit taco shells from Taco Bell restaurants
for testing.


A lawyer for Genetically Engineered Food Alert filed a letter with the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on behalf of the coalition calling upon
the Agency to recall the adulterated taco shells, as permitted under law,
if the manufacturer does not implement a voluntary recall.

"This is a legal violation and FDA clearly has the authority to seize the
product if Taco Bell and Philip Morris do not recall it," said Joseph
Mendelson, Center for Food Safety legal director.

The coalition also sent letters to David Novak, CEO of TRICON Global
Restaurants (the parent company of Taco Bell) and Philip Morris CEO
Geoffrey Bible requesting that they voluntarily remove all Taco Bell taco
shells from supermarkets.


The coalition also requested that the FDA move swiftly to test for the
presence of Cry9C corn in all products containing non-organic yellow corn
#2, the grade of corn to which Cry9C belongs. According to the American
Corn Growers Association, only nine percent of the conventional corn crop
was segregated from genetically engineered corn in the 1999. Products made
with yellow corn #2 may include many varieties of tortillas, breakfast
cereals, corn chips, frozen TV dinners such as enchiladas, and corn meal.


Members of the Genetically Engineered Food Alert condemned the presence of
the genetically engineered ingredient on grocery store shelves, as
indicated by the test results, as a failure of the FDA to provide adequate
oversight of food biotechnology corporations and food producers. The FDA is
empowered 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).

"This discovery just shows that genetically engineered ingredients should
not be on the grocery store shelves when so poorly regulated by FDA," said
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-10th OH). "It concerns me and should
concern American consumers that this is a glimpse of things to come as
genetically engineered products are rushed to store shelves without real
mandatory safety testing and labeling programs in place."


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.


The recall letters to Taco Bell and Philip Morris, the formal petition to
the FDA, test results, as well as fact sheets on genetically engineered
Cry9C corn, the regulatory history of Cry9C, and on the laboratory testing
protocol are located on the Genetically Engineered Food Alert website at


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