‘Would You Like a Warning Label With Those Fries….?’

By August 29, 2005Briefly Legal

Just when you think California can’t get any wackier, they do. The state estimated by some to be the most hostile to business (despite the Governator’s best efforts) just got a little more so, thanks to Attorney General Bill Lockyer. It’s as if they need to run the last few businesses out of the state, leaving it all to the activists, not a great tax base, really.

On Friday, Lockyer asked for a court order demanding that Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Frito Lay and other companies put a warning on french fries and potato chips, alerting them that said food may contain acrylamide, a chemical the state says causes cancer. Only one problem: it doesn’t. Or at least the evidence doesn’t point in that direction. No matter, never let the facts get in the way of a good story — or a good lawsuit — right?

The problem all started a few years back when some Swedish scientists — no doubt on a break from perfecting Swedish Fish (how more perfect could they be?) — stumbled upon a discovery

that food like potatoes, when cooked at very hot temperatures (to eliminate any risk of other dangers for which these companies could get sued) can cause formation of this chemical, acrylamide. In enormous doses, like a bazillion fries washed down by 50,000 bags of chips a day for a hundred years or something, it might — just might — cause cancer. Or at least it did in rats. Or at least some rats. Or at least that was their theory. Whatever. (And as we learned last week, better not wash ’em all down with a glass of milk or the lactose intolerance folks will beat down your door.)

This was great until 2003, when the Harvard School of Public Health — not exactly a fly-by-night or “research for hire” lab — found the opposite. Their study, “found no association between the consumption of foods high in acrylamide and increased risk of … cancer”, concluding, “individuals with the highest total acrylamide intake were at no greater risk of cancer than those with lower intake.” Heck, even an Attorney General oughta be able to follow that logic. But “So What?”, says Lockyer, noting that Proposition 65, a ballot initiative passed in 1986, requires businesses of all types to provide the public with “clear and reasonable” warnings before exposing them to potentially dangerous substances — like fries and chips, presumably. We’re sure that’s what the legislature had in mind.

This is all just so asinine, so out of control. It’s amazing that the Attorney General doesn’t have anything better to do than to try to require warning labels on fries and chips. What a legacy. It’s just all so many trial lawyers run amok. Let’s hope the citizenry of California rises up. OK, forget it. Let’s hope the citizenry of the other 49 rise up and make sure this kind of nutty activism doesn’t take hold elsewhere. Here’s a link to a Seattle Times story about General Lockyer’s idiotic move and here’s a link to a funny and enlightening piece from the Center for Consumer Freedom aptly entitled, “It’s All Contaminated! Run For the Hills!”.

Maybe it’s time to put the warning labels on the trial lawyers, not the fries.

Wonder what happens when you click on www.triallawyersmakemesick.org?