IN THE NEWS: Doctors’ suit: KFC grilled chicken a danger

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 23 September 2009

Source: SFGate

After losing its first battle against fast-food restaurants, a doctors group went back to court Wednesday and accused the KFC chain of selling grilled chicken with dangerous levels of a cancer-causing chemical.

In a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine accused KFC of violating California’s Proposition 65, which requires businesses to warn customers if they are being exposed to substances that cause cancer or birth defects.

The chemical cited in the lawsuit, known as PhIP, was added to the state’s list of carcinogens in 1994. The doctors group said an independent laboratory found the substance in every one of 12 grilled chicken samples bought from six East Bay KFC restaurants in May.

The suit seeks an order requiring customer warnings in all KFC restaurants in California and penalties to the state of as much as $2,500 a day for violations.

The organization, which has 7,000 physician members, made the same arguments last year in a suit against other restaurants that sell grilled chicken. Burger King agreed to warn customers of the presence of PhIP, but other defendants, led by McDonald’s, held their ground and won a ruling from a Los Angeles judge dismissing the case.

The judge said a federal law that requires labeling of some chicken products prohibits California from imposing stricter standards under Prop. 65. The doctors group is appealing.

The lawsuit faces another obstacle: The state attorney general’s office, in response to a complaint from the physicians group, conducted its own study and concluded in 2006 that PhIP levels in cooked chicken were too low to require a Prop. 65 warning.

The attorney general’s position isn’t binding on the courts, but KFC cited the conclusion in its comment on the suit.

Company spokesman Rick Maynard said KFC’s “Kentucky Grilled Chicken” product “meets or exceeds all federal and state regulations for food safety.” The doctors organization, he added, “promotes a vegetarian agenda.”

The group’s scientific and policy adviser, Kristie Sullivan, agreed that it promotes a vegetarian diet but said the recent tests of KFC chicken confirmed that it contains a hazardous chemical.

“Because KFC promotes the grilled chicken as a healthy alternative to fried chicken, (customers) aren’t aware that the danger exists,” Sullivan said. She said the attorney general’s office apparently relied on animal studies, which she said understate the effect of PhIP in humans.

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