Chicken suit ruffles feathers

All I want to know is whether my grilled chicken sandwich at Burger King has a suspected carcinogen. Seems simple enough - until the advocacy groups chime in.

An outfit called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed suit Thursday in L.A. Superior Court against seven restaurant chains, accusing them of not warning customers that their grilled chicken products contain a carcinogen. That would violate Propesition 65, which requires businesses to post warnings about food that might be have a cancer-causing agent. In this case, the group claims that the chicken contains something called "PhIP." The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine calls itself an advocacy group that advocates a vegetarian diet.The story got a little play on the wires and the WSJ had a short piece this morning.

Then along comes another outfit called the Center for Consumer Freedom, which issued a press release blasting the suit. The CCF calls the PCRM "a wealthy animal rights group, not a mainstream health charity." Here's what CCF Director of Research David Martosko said: "When will people realize that this phony ‘physicians’ group is just [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] with a lab coat? The animal rights activists at PCRM would rather save lab rats than cure cancer and AIDS. They don’t deserve a say in whether or not anyone eats a chicken sandwich."

Well, who exactly is the Center for Consumer Freedom? Formerly called the Guest Choice Network, it's a a non-profit that's funded by the fast food, meat and tobacco industries. Its purpose is to defend those industries against most anything that's anti-smoking, anti-drinking and anti-meat.

OK, but none of this helps me in figuring out whether it's safe to eat that grilled chicken sandwich, although a story in ScienceDaily might provide a clue. Here's the opening paragraph:

The compound PhIP (2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine), formed by cooking meats at very high temperatures, acts as both an initiator and promoter of prostate cancer in rats, according to a Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center study, presented at the 97th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.

There's also some link with breast cancer. The lawsuit asks the defendants - McDonald's, Burger King, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide (T.G.I. Fridays), Applebee's, Chick-fil-A, Brinker (Chili's) and OSI Restaurant Partners (Outback) - to post warnings about the carcinogenic dangers.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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