Biotech Concerns Affect Kellogg Co.
LISA M. COLLINS
Oct. 21, 2000
DETROIT (AP) _ A Kellogg Co. executive said Saturday one of its cereal plants had scaled back production because a supplier could not guarantee its corn was free of a genetically modified grain not yet approved for human consumption.
Despite the disruption at Kellogg's Memphis, Tenn., plant, Joe Stewart, senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief ethics officer for Kellogg, said the Battle Creek-based food giant has confidence in the quality and safety of its products currently in stores and homes.
``It was a precautionary measure to make sure none (of the corn) gets through. We have no reason to think this has gotten into our supply,'' Stewart said.
The disruption in production isn't expected to affect the price of Kellogg's products, which include Frosted Flakes and Special K cereals. Stewart said the Memphis plant is expected to be back to full capacity next week.
Stewart wouldn't name the corn supplier but said it had stopped operating to test for the modified corn, called StarLink, which is thought to potentially cause allergies in humans. StarLink has been approved for animal consumption but not for humans.
``I'm sure there are other plants in other locations that have had to shut down, because this supplier doesn't only supply us,'' Stewart said. ``This is a national food supply problem, not a Kellogg-specific problem.''
Some grain suppliers have recently been unable to certify that their corn is free of the gene-altered StarLink, which apparently was mixed with regular corn in multiple sites around the country in violation of federal regulations.
Aventis CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., which makes StarLink, is trying to recover 9 million bushels of the grain, which may have been shipped to mills.
The Food and Drug Administration is testing a variety of corn products, but officials said StarLink had been found only in taco shells so far.
Kraft Foods issued a nationwide recall Sept. 22 of millions of taco shells it sells under the Taco Bell brand name after tests confirmed the presence of StarLink.
Texas-based Mission Foods Co. also recalled all its tortillas, taco shells and snack chips made with yellow corn. A sister company, Azteca Milling, announced it was recalling all its flour made from yellow corn.
Government officials said the StarLink problems have begun to prevent exporters from fulfilling contracts with overseas companies, which often demand that products be free of engineered foods.
One possible solution for regulators would be to approve StarLink for human consumption if its presence falls below a certain content level. Because the grain was being reviewed for human consumption by regulators when the problems began, officials said any new scientific data presented to support claims that the corn is safe for people might be reviewed now.
On the Net:
USDA's biotechnology site: http://www.usda.gov/agencies/biotech/index.html