The Wall Street Journal has urged US consumers not to panic over Kraft's recent large-scale recall of taco shells containing unapproved GM ingredients. After all, the article continues, when every fifty grams of cornmeal, the primary constituent of the product, already probably boasted one "whole insect," 50 insect fragments, two rodent hairs, or one "rodent excreta fragment," what's a little genetic alteration?

The article refers to the standards dictated to food producers by the Food and Drug Administration body (FDA), which admits that its concern for such gruesome contaminants is "aesthetic." Concern over StarLink, the only variety of GM corn not to be approved for human consumption, is proving to be a widely debated issue.

The main problem with StarLink is the insecticide protein Cry9C, which resembles a human allergen and was developed to potentially prevent the necessity for acres of bug refuges, designated areas in which corn is grown and surrendered to the European corn borer bug for use as a mating ground. Two months ago the Environmental Protection Agency issued rules to farmers requiring at least 20% of their land to be bug-friendly.

It seems that StarLink contaminated only 1% of the taco shells, and in any case has already been entering the food chain via animal feed for three years, but Kraft has tacitly avoided a clash with customers over the acceptance of GM ingredients. Instead it rapidly apologised and brandished a loudspeaker to call for further testing and safety regulations; companies such as Kraft annually generate US$35bn in food products promotion, too much to risk over the fledgling GM issue. Ironically, the call is a marketing coup d'état for John Fagan, the biotech opponent who bought the original embarrassing charge to Kraft's door. Fagan's new company Genetic ID is having a field day testing food produce for GM contamination.

The Wall Street Journal points out, however, that "testing methods are iffy" on processed products, and that the infinitesimal amounts of Cry9C do not even equal the health risks involved in lifting the taco-shells down from the supermarket shelves. With nearly half of the US public having fallen prey to food poisoning at least once, it argues that the major source of contamination in the food supply is salmonella and e-coli, and of course, the bugs.

For the intrigued, the FDA will happily refer be-microscoped insect spotters to the riveting research article: "Distinguishing Common Food-contaminating Bat Hairs from Certain Feather Barbules." For the squeamish, meanwhile, refusing to buy tacoshells in the hope of avoiding insect debris is futile. The FDA's standards are also applicable to many other foods. Next time you have a plate of macaroni cheese, be sure to give thanks for the creatures that donate 225 body parts to every 225g.