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Shell Suppliers Give $60M to Taco Bell

June 8, 2001

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Taco Bell franchise owners will receive $60 million from taco shell suppliers to help recoup losses from a massive recall in response to a genetically altered corn scare last year.

Under the deal announced Friday, Taco Bell parent Tricon Global Restaurants will join its suppliers in seeking damages from the companies who introduced the bioengineered corn into the U.S. food supply.

The corn, called StarLink, was produced by North Carolina-based Aventis CropScience. It was approved only for animal feed because of unanswered questions about the potential to cause allergic reactions in humans.

In September, Kraft Foods recalled millions of packages of taco shells sold in stores under the Taco Bell name after tests showed that some contained the Aventis variety. Taco Bell temporarily switched to white corn in its restaurants as a precaution.

Since the recall, Aventis has agreed to pay between $100 million and $1 billion in compensation to grain farmers throughout the country. The company canceled its license to sell StarLink in October.

In March, the federal officials said there was little, if any, health risk from StarLink corn.

Amy Sherwood, a Tricon spokeswoman, would not identify the company’s taco shell suppliers.

Taco Bell said the $60 million will help franchise owners recover lost sales from the recall, according to a statement Friday from Tricon, which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut. Louisville-based Tricon owns and operates about 20 percent of the nation’s Taco Bell restaurants, but the statement said it would not share in the $60 million payment, ``so that the vast majority of the funds will directly benefit its franchisee partners.″

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