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Mission Recalling Corn Items, Citing StarLink

Food: Company says products may contain the genetically engineered grain. It is also switching from yellow to white variety.


WASHINGTON — The nation's largest manufacturer of tortilla products Friday recalled all its tortillas, taco shells and snack chips made with yellow corn because the flour may contain an unapproved biotech variety of grain.

The move by Mission Foods Co. of Irving, Texas, followed a decision earlier this week by Safeway Inc. to remove all of Mission's taco shells from its stores and an earlier recall of taco shells by Kraft Foods.

Mission said it was also switching from yellow to white corn in all its products. A sister company, Azteca Milling, announced that it was recalling all its flour made from yellow corn. Azteca supplied the flour for both the Mission Foods and Kraft taco shells.

At issue is a variety of genetically engineered corn, known as StarLink, that is not approved for human consumption because of questions about its potential to cause allergic reactions. Federal officials say the health risk is remote.

"Our guiding concern has been to protect the safety of the consumer, our customers and our food products," said Steve Brunner, senior vice president of Mission Foods.

Mission Foods is a subsidiary of Gruma of Monterrey, Mexico. Azteca Milling is a partnership of Gruma and Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Mission's recall applies to all of its tortilla products, which are sold under both the Mission name and under a variety of private and generic labels.

The volume was not immediately known, officials said, and Mission declined to disclose the names of supermarket chains that distribute its products. It will be up to the stores whether to tell shoppers about the recall, said Peter Pitts, a Mission spokesman. Mission makes about 10% of the taco shells sold nationwide, he said. Information about the recall was to be posted on the company's Web site.

Officials with Azteca Milling said they initiated their recall of the flour because they were not confident of methods of testing for the StarLink corn. The company plans to mill only white corn.

"Because StarLink is a yellow corn, and we believe that we need to assure our customers and the public that products made with our flour are safe, the surest way to bolster confidence is to make products with only white corn," said Dan Lynn, Azteca's president.

The corn that was detected in the Kraft and Mission taco shells is believed to have originated at Azteca's mill in Plainview, Texas.

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency said that the seed's developer, Aventis, had agreed to cancel its license to sell the corn.

Aventis already had suspended sales of the seed for next year's crop and agreed to reimburse the government for purchasing all of this year's harvest.

The corn contains a bacterium gene that makes it toxic to an insect pest. StarLink is one of the least-used varieties of biotech corn and the only one not allowed in food.

The Food and Drug Administration has been testing various food products for the corn, but officials have declined to discuss the results.

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