Palaces For The People
Saturday, October 25, 2003

GE enzyme found in NZ bread dough used in Japan


Japanese Subway chain stores have stopped selling sandwiches after discovering their New Zealand-made bread dough contains an unauthorised genetically engineered (GE) micro-organism.

The incident comes as the New Zealand Government prepares to lift its moratorium on GE material on Wednesday, which will allow people to apply for permission to use GE material outside a laboratory.

GE opponents in New Zealand have been swift to say the Subway case -- which comes soon after the July rejection by a Japanese pizza-maker of a consignment of GE sweetcorn grown in Gisborne -- was evidence the moratorium should not be lifted.

"To argue that this not a GE release and therefore has nothing to do with lifting the moratorium misses the point," Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said in a statement.

"This episode has everything to do with our lax regulatory systems. Lifting the moratorium will only increase the likelihood of this sort of thing happening more often."

The Japan Times reported Subway Japan stopped selling sandwiches on Friday after its import dealer -- Sumitomo Corp -- learned about the GE enzyme. Subway's website says it has 94 stores in Japan.

Subway reported the findings to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which was investigating the case.

"The officials said Subway used four types of frozen bread dough containing an enzyme not approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare," the Times reported.

The dough is made by Taranaki firm Yarrows. Paul Yarrow told the Sunday Star Times the company had removed the enzyme believed responsible for the contamination, and had not known it had been genetically modified.

Japan's Kyodo News quoted Subway's marketing department as saying the sandwich chain removed the dough as a precautionary measure, even though it posed no health risk. The department said the dough was in use in the United States and other countries.

Sumitomo Corp told Kyodo News it failed to spot the enzyme case as the bread dough was not mentioned as an ingredient during customs checks.

Ms Fitzsimons said New Zealand's reputation as a supplier of fresh, clean, safe food was "plummeting", and current food labelling laws -- under which food processing additives like enzymes don't have to be labelled -- meant New Zealanders did know whether they were eating GE material or not.

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