OCA & GEFA Coalition Expose Another Brand-Name Product,
Western Family Taco Shells, Contain Illegal Bt Corn

OCA & Genetically Engineered Food Alert Expose Another Brand-Name Product,
Western Family Taco Shells, As Containing the Illegal, Likely Allergenic Bt
Corn Variety (Cry9c)

October 25, 2000

Larry Bohlen, Friends of the Earth, 202-783-7400 x251
David King or Amanda Gordon National Environmental Trust, 202-887-8800
Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association 218-226-4164

Contamination by Starlink Corn Found in Western Family Taco Shells
Purchased in Oregon

Company Sells to U.S., Japan, and other Pacific Rim Countries

The Genetically Engineered Food Alert coalition announced today the finding
of more contaminated taco shells. The product sells under the Western
Family brand name. The discovery adds to the growing list of products
found to be contaminated with Starlink corn, a variety of genetically
engineered corn not approved for human consumption.

Western Family Foods, Inc. sells its products under six labels to over 3,500
stores based in 23 states in the U.S., including Associated Grocers in
Seattle and United Grocers International in Oakland, CA stores , more than
twice the number of Safeway's 1,600 stores affected last week by the recall
of Safeway brand taco shells. It also markets products in Japan and other
Pacific Rim countries according to its website located at
<www.westernfamily.com> A box of Western Family tacos was purchased on
October 22 by a coalition volunteer in at a grocery in Eugene, Oregon. The
tacos that tested positive were also purchased in Eugene on September 28.

"The product, found on the West Coast, further illustrates the nationwide
extent of the contamination," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of
the Center for Food Safety, a member of Genetically Engineered Food Alert.

It is not clear whether the Western Family product is made by Mission
Foods, which announced a recall of its products on October 13. The company
name does not appear on the list of products posted on the Mission Foods
website. In a phone call to the Mission Foods' product recall representative
last week by the coalition, only Diane's, La Ranchito, and Safeway brands
were mentioned as manufactured by the company.

"Once again a small group of citizen organizations has done the job that the
FDA should be doing," said Philip Clapp, President of National Environmental
Trust. "The FDA is failing to warn the American public of genetically
contaminated products that should be avoided." The coalition noted that the
government should not look for a convenient way to approve StarLink corn
for human consumption that is based on speculation, not hard data.
Yesterday, members of the coalition signed onto a letter with Greenpeace to
President Clinton stating that EPA should not "retroactively approve
StarLink corn for human consumption" and FDA at this time should take "no
action to set tolerance or action levels for Starlink corn."

"For two years, the EPA had reservations about the safety of this corn.
Approval for human consumption by EPA, FDA or any federal governmental body
now would seem to be based on politics, not science," said Larry Bohlen,
Director of Health and Environment Programs at Friends of the Earth.

The coalition urged federal officials to investigate reports of illnesses
thought to be related to consumption of Starlink corn made to the FDA and to
the coalition. The coalition also backed a call by Consumers Union,
publishers of Consumer Reports, for the Environmental Protection Agency to
run critical allergy tests. (See Oct. 20th news release at

"The EPA has had the ability to run allergy tests for over a year but has
not taken action," added Bohlen.

The EPA held three days of hearings last week on the environmental and human
health safety of genetically engineered corn. The Agency's Scientific
Advisory Panel indicated that at this time, there is no way to set a
threshold amount of protein below which there would be no concern for a
health risk.

Despite this, lobbyists from the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the
Grocery Manufacturers of America have been meeting with federal regulators
to persuade them to declare that food made with Starlink corn is safe. This
attempt at a run around the current legal and scientific safeguards is an
effort to shield industry from liability and save them money in recall costs
and lost sales.

"Instead of lobbying the government for exemptions, the industry should be
doing everything it can to find the 9 million bushels of corn that
inadvertently entered the food supply," said Richard Caplan, Environmental
Advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "Leading scientists
have reservations about the safety of this corn for human consumption, and
we should rely on their judgment."

Letters requesting a formal recall by Western Family Foods, Inc. and the
FDA, fact sheets on genetically engineered Cry9C corn, Western Family Foods,
Inc. and on the laboratory testing protocol are located on the Genetically
Engineered Food Alert website at www.gefoodalert.org/recall

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