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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2000 / presssafewa


Friends of the Earth Press Release, October 12th, 2000


New food scandal rocks the USA. Safeway brand contains illegal GM maize.

Less than one month after Genetically Engineered Food Alert [1] revealed that an illegal genetically modified (GM) maize was present in Taco Bell taco shells, the coalition is calling for taco shells marketed under the Safeway brand to be withdrawn from sale after independent testing confirmed that these also contain GM maize not authorised for human consumption [2].

On 18 th September, Friends of the Earth (FoE) US, which requested analysis of Taco Bell taco shells, broke the news that the product contained a variety of GM maize called StarLink which is approved in the United States for use in animal feed but not for human consumption. The US Food and Drug Administration acknowledged the accuracy of the testing carried out for FoE at Genetic-ID in Iowa. Kraft Foods, part of the Philip Morris conglomerate, which markets the Taco Bell brand issued a national recall of the product a few days later. Biotech giant Aventis, which produces StarLink, has agreed with the US government to buy back all the StarLink maize grown in the US this year, a move that is estimated to cost the company some US$ 90 – 100M.

FoE is calling for Safeway to immediately withdraw any suspect products from its supermarkets. "Safeway should follow Kraft Foods and recall the genetically contaminated taco shells," said Larry Bohlen, Director of Health and Environment Programs at Friends of the Earth. "Two contamination incidents in one month show that the FDA is doing a miserable job protecting the American food supply".

Friends of the Earth Europe is investigating possible contamination of food products in the European Union. "We wrote to Kraft and Philip Morris corporate European headquarters straight after the Taco Bell story broke," said Gill Lacroix, Biotechnology Coordinator at FoEE in Brussels. "So far, neither of them have had either the courtesy or guts to reply but we are following that through." Referring to the current revision of the EU’s GMO directive 90/220/EEC, Lacroix pointed out that the US food scandals highlight once again the failings of the revised directive as it now stands. "Traceability and liability are just not addressed in the current text," she said, "yet these shocking examples of illegal GMOs getting onto supermarket shelves show how very crucial these issues are".

More information :
Larry Bohlen, FoE US, 1-202-783.7400 x251
Gill Lacroix, FoE Europe, 32-2-542 0182


1. 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.

2.StarLink maize, produced by Aventis, is not authorised in Europe but has been approved in the United States for use in animal feed. The US Environmental Protection Agency considers it unfit for human consumption because the genetic modification involved (Bt-toxin Cry9C) "exhibits some characteristics of known allergens".




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