Recall of biotech corn products affecting stores, eateries
By Philip Brasher, Associated Press, 11/3/2000
ASHINGTON - A nationwide recall of taco shells and other corn products that contain an unapproved variety of biotech grain has reached stores and restaurants across the country, including Wal-Mart and Wendy's.
The manufacturer, Mission Foods Inc., estimated yesterday that the recall could cost the company as much as million.
About 300 varieties of taco shells, tortillas, and snack chips made by the Irving, Texas, company were affected by the Oct. 13 recall, according to a list released by the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA's list includes tortillas and chips sold through such restaurants as Applebee's and Wendy's, and taco shells carrying private labels of a number of supermarket chains, including Safeway, Food Lion, Kroger, IGA, Albertson's, and Wal-Mart.
The products contain a genetically engineered variety of corn, known as StarLink, that has not been approved for human consumption because of questions about its potential to cause allergic reactions. Federal officials say there is little, if any, health risk from the corn.
News of the recall also has affected sales of taco shells that are not affected by the recall. Stores in some areas have been forced to cut prices in order to sell the taco shells before their expiration dates, said Gene Grabowski, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
''We have not heard that it is widespread across the country, but only in certain markets ... where taco shells are less of a staple in the diet,'' he said.
Mission Foods estimates that its recall involves 5 million to 6 million pounds. ''That's going to cost us many millions of dollars,'' possibly as much as million, said company spokesman Peter Pitts.
The recall was issued after taco shells containing StarLink corn were found in a Safeway store near Washington. Mission officials said they decided to recall their products that contain yellow corn and switch to the use of white corn.
The company is having sales representatives check stores and restaurants for compliance with the recall. Pitts said he did not know how much of the recalled products had been returned or destroyed so far.
Stores have not reported problems selling Mission's replacement products made with white corn, Pitts said.
Kraft Foods Inc. also switched to white corn for its taco shells after it recalled its product in September because of a positive test for StarLink, but Kraft's white-corn taco shells are not in stores yet, a company spokeswoman said.
The Kraft and Mission products were made with StarLink grown last year and mixed in with other corn that was sold to millers.
Federal officials fear that some of this year's crop also may get into the food supply because they have been unable to trace about 1.2 million bushels, or 1.5 percent of the total StarLink harvest, that were shipped from farms.