Foodservice Equipment Reports

California Grilled Chicken War Presses On

Grilled chicken with a side of carcinogen? Wording similar to that is being debated in California. An Appellate Court ruling last week reversed a ruling and reignited a case that alleges that the chicken-grilling process used by chains including McDonald’s, T.G.I. Friday's, Applebee’s, Chick-fil-A, Chili's and Outback Steakhouse creates a cancer-causing chemical, and that state law requires operators to warn consumers about it.

The non-profit plaintiff group, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, tested 100 grilled chicken samples from seven chain restaurants. PCRM said in court filings that the tests found the presence of a carcinogenic chemical called PhIP, which is produced through the chains’ cooking process.

In 2008, PCRM filed suit, claiming that the restaurants are required to post warnings under California’s Proposition 65, which stipulates that businesses cannot expose individuals to chemicals known to cause cancer “without first giving clear and reasonable warning.” Burger King settled with the physicians group and agreed to post signs. McDonald’s and other chains countered and won a summary judgment last year that such signage would contradict federal efforts to guarantee that food was cooked sufficiently to prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

On Aug. 12, a state Appellate Court reversed the ruling. Now, the case heads back to Superior Court, where a trial could take years. PCRM is participating in a similar lawsuit in Connecticut.

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