Lockyer Files Suit Seeking Warning Labels for French Fries, Potato Chips
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) on Aug. 26 filed a lawsuit against Burger King, Frito Lay, McDonald's, Wendy's and several other makers of french fries and potato chips, alleging the companies failed to warn consumers about a carcinogen known as acrylamide contained in their potato products, the AP/Oakland Tribune reports (Molloy, AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27).
The lawsuit also includes KFC; H.J. Heinz, which makes Ore-Ida potato products; Procter & Gamble, which makes Pringles potato chips; and Kettle Foods, which makes Kettle Chips.
The lawsuit alleges the companies are in violation of Proposition 65, a 1986 state law that requires companies to notify consumers if their products contain certain carcinogens. Acrylamide, which is used in sewage treatment and some other industrial processes, was placed on the Proposition 65 toxic chemicals list in 1990 (Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27).
Swedish National Food Authority researchers in 2002 discovered that the chemical also is produced when certain starchy foods, such as potatoes, are cooked at high temperatures (AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27). Acrylamide also is found in low levels in breads, olives, asparagus, coffee, prune juice and some breakfast cereals (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27).
FDA is evaluating the safety of acrylamide in food. According to the AP/Oakland Tribune, no studies have linked food containing acrylamide with cancer (AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27). The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment also is assessing potential risks and expects to issue its findings by the end of the year (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27).
The attorney general's office said the lawsuit focuses on french fries and potato chips because those products contain more acrylamide than other foods (AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27).
The Grocery Manufacturers of America has assembled a coalition of companies opposed to warning labels for foods that contain acrylamide. The coalition includes the companies named in the lawsuit.
Coalition members said in a statement, "It is regrettable that private individuals and the attorney general have decided to file lawsuits seeking warnings on acrylamide in spite of the view to the contrary of [FDA] and health experts throughout the world" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27).
Lockyer said, "In taking this action, I am not telling people to stop eating potato chips or french fries. I know from personal experience that, while these snacks may not be a necessary part of a healthy diet, they sure taste good" (AP/Oakland Tribune, 8/27). Lockyer continued, "But I and all consumers should have the information we need to make informed decisions about the food we eat" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27).
Proposition 65 has turned California into "the warning-label state," columnist Debra Saunders writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. If Lockyer succeeds in his attempt to require warning labels for french fries and potato chips, "the Legislature might as well post a billboard at the border that says: Eating in California can be hazardous to your health," Saunders writes.
Saunders continues, "If Lockyer wanted to perform a true public service, he'd devise a way to whittle down the long list of Prop. 65 baddies." Saunders concludes, "With this lawsuit, I'm convinced of only one thing: That Lockyer knows how to waste money" (Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30).