StarLink Found in White Corn Chips Food - detected by allergic reaction
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Source: LA Times.
StarLink Found in White Corn Chips Food: The genetically modified variety is not approved for human use. Find highlights difficulty in segregating crops.
By MARC KAUFMAN, Washington Post
WASHINGTON--StarLink corn, the genetically modified
yellow variety whose presence in food products last fall resulted in
widespread recalls, has been found for the first time in a white corn
product. The discovery underscores the food industry's difficulties
in segregating modified and conventional crops.
The Food and Drug Administration found genetic material from
StarLink in Kash n' Karry white corn tortilla chips last month in
response to a complaint from a consumer in Florida. An FDA
official said the agency didn't request a recall, but both the Kash n'
Karry and Food Lion grocery chains pulled the house-brand
product from their shelves Tuesday.
Last fall, many corn chip and tortilla makers switched to white
corn--which makes up less than 3% of the American corn
market--to reassure consumers concerned about the possible
presence of StarLink in taco shells and corn chips. At the time,
producers said the use of white corn eliminated the risk of
inadvertently introducing StarLink into their products.
StarLink, genetically modified by Aventis CropSciences to
contain a pesticide protein, was never approved for human use
because of concerns it might cause allergic reactions. Recent FDA
tests, however, found no antibodies to the StarLink protein in 17
people who had complained of symptoms after eating corn
The FDA found the StarLink gene in the white corn chips after
being notified by Keith Finger, a Florida optometrist who was one
of the 17 tested earlier. Finger said his wife bought the white corn
chips after hearing reports that it couldn't contain StarLink. He said
he ate some, suffered another, milder reaction and immediately
contacted the FDA.
Federal officials couldn't say whether any additional tests were
planned in Finger's case.
The presence of StarLink in a white corn product illustrates how
difficult it is to keep genetically modified crops from spreading.
White corn is grown and distributed separately from yellow corn,
and industry observers said there are currently no genetically
modified varieties. They added, however, that it's proven
impossible to prevent some commingling of conventional and
modified, as well as white and yellow, corn. The mixing, they said,
could happen at processing plants, during transportation and
through cross-pollination in fields.
Thomas Slunecka of the National Corn Growers Assn. said it
wasn't surprising that some of the StarLink genetic material might
show up in white corn. "In the real world, we need to set
acceptable tolerances for these events rather than demand absolute
purity," he said.
Last year, Aventis asked the Environmental Protection Agency
to retroactively approve StarLink for human use, a move that
would save the company and the corn industry money and
headaches. Critics of biotechnology strongly oppose any approval,
and say it would reward a company that had promised to keep
StarLink out of the human food chain but failed.
An EPA advisory panel will meet in Washington this month to
review new StarLink information and recommend whether to grant
Copyright © 2001 Los Angeles Times
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