Foodservice Equipment Reports

Charbroiling Becomes Contentious In California

The California Restaurant Association is alerting its members to some unwanted deliveries. Some operators in the state have been served notices alleging they violated the California Health and Safety Code, under Proposition 65.

The 60-day notices of violation are being sent by Whitney Leeman, an air-resources engineer from Sacramento. Over the past few years, she has sued dozens of companies under Prop 65, the 1986 law requiring that vendors disclose ingredients the state has identified as having links to cancer or birth defects. Companies that don't tell can be sued, and under Prop 65 anyone can be a plaintiff. That initiative, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, requires the state to publish and update a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Notices have been received by at least four restaurant companies in San Diego and Sacramento counties on the basis of alleged exposure to potentially toxic chemicals found when flame-cooked ground-beef products are ingested. The notice alleges defects, including failure by the restaurants to post the required Prop 65 warnings, and the failure to recall the ground-beef products sold or taking reasonable measures to ensure the requisite health-hazard warnings have been provided.

The CRA believes that this is a concerted effort to target restaurants that sell flame-cooked ground-beef products. Similar litigation was filed against Burger King and CKE Restaurants by Leeman in the last few years.

The notices can mean hefty penalties and great expense to an operator. The CRA Legal Center is urging its members receiving notices not to contact Leeman or her counsel, but to immediately notify the Legal Center to minimize potential liability and cost. Members qualify for 15 minutes of free legal advice each month through the CRA Legal Center. They can get assistance through the association’s helpline at 800/765-4842, ext. 2743.

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