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Grilled Chicken is Carcinogenic

Earlier this week, I mentioned that last Saturday I was at a fundraiser for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at the spectacular home of Nanci Alexander, founder of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. The founder and president of PCRM is Dr. Neal Barnard, who is a clinical researcher, author, advocate for health, nutrition, and higher standards in research, and  . . . . a really handsome, funny guy. Among other things, Dr. Barnard spoke of a lawsuit PCRM has filed in California against McDonald’s, Burger King, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Applebee’s, and TGI Friday’s, asking that they disclose that their grilled chicken is carcinogenic. They don’t want money, all they want is for the restaurants to disclose the danger of eating their food (just like cigarette makers must do). Do you think that’s ridiculous?

Hold that thought, and let’s deconstruct:

  • PCRM gathered samples of grilled chicken products from the 7 restaurants listed above.
  • Every single sample tested positive for a dangerous carcinogenic compound (PhIP, part of the family of heterocyclic amines [HCAs]).
  • California’s Proposition 65 requires the Governor to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. There are over 550 chemicals on the list.
  • Businesses are required to provide a "clear and reasonable" warning to their customers if any of the listed chemicals are in their products, unless they can demonstrate that the chemical poses "no significant risk" to customers or people in the workplace.
  • Guess what’s been on the Governor’s list as being known to cause cancer for over a decade? PhIP.
  • Since 2005, guess what’s been on the federal government’s list as being known to cause cancer? HCAs.
  • So, uh, what happened to the bit about the "clear and reasonable" warning from the restaurants about the cancer-causing compounds in their food? I’m not a fan of the tobacco industry, but how come they are under such scrutiny for doling out poison, and the food industry escapes, unscathed?
  • As Dr. Barnard said, "Grilled chicken can cause cancer, and consumers deserve to know that this supposedly healthy product is actually just as bad for them as high-fat fried chicken."

At the fundraiser, Dr. Barnard also said that he believes the law should be used offensively, rather than defensively. In other words, we should use it proactively, to go after businesses producing dangerous products and get them either taken off the market or get a required warning put on them, rather than waiting for some large-scale, horrifying tragedy, and then suing because consumers didn’t know the dangers of the products they used.

Think about it.

Fewer people would get cancer if food was properly labelled. (Of course, not everyone would stay away, just like smokers.) How ridiculous do you think the lawsuit is now?

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