Posts Tagged ‘French fries’

Regulating potato chip recipes

Readers will recall that acrylamide is a naturally occurring substance formed when many foods are browned or otherwise cooked and that (like countless other constituents of common foods) it appears to cause cancer in some animals at high dosages. California attorney general Jerry Brown has now reached a settlement with some large food companies that will require them to revise recipes for potato chips, French fries and other wares to reduce acrylamide content. Fun fact: one of the ways they may accomplish this goal is by artificially adding a chemical (OK, an enzyme) which works to neutralize acrylamide’s precursors. (Rosie Mestel, “Booster Shots” blog, L.A. Times, Aug. 4).

More: Bill Childs adds, “Oh, and the companies will pay California around $2.5 million.”


More things that it’s really inadvisable to do if you’re a lawyer:

  • Tell a judge to her face in open court that you consider her “a few French fries short of a Happy Meal” (William Smith of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, facing possible exclusion from the right to practice in the bankruptcy court in question; Crain’s Chicago Business);

  • Show up in a hospital room to recruit as client a heavily medicated crash victim, then discourage him from going after the other driver’s personal assets in the case, without mentioning that the other driver is your own wife’s grandfather (Jeffrey Hark of Cherry Hill, N.J., referred for a state-bar ethical investigation although a legal-malpractice claim against him failed for lack of a showing of damages; NJLJ);

  • As part of a $59 million settlement of Benlate fungicide-damage cases, accept a secret $6 million side payment from defendant duPont in exchange for (among other services) agreeing to file no more cases (Roland R. St. Louis Jr. and Francisco R. Rodriguez of Miami, disbarred and given a two-year suspension respectively; NLJ, Elefant).
Earlier entries in this series: Apr. 23, 2007; Jan. 20, Apr. 12 and Apr. 28, 2006; Aug. 3, Sept. 13, 2005.

And more May 17 updates

  • Google beats Perfect 10 in Ninth Circuit appeal over copyright suit over thumbnail images. (Earlier: Feb. 06, Jul. 05, Nov. 04.) [LA Times; WaPo; Bashman; Perfect 10 v. Amazon (9th Cir. 2007)]
  • Judge thinks better over Brent Coon’s attempt to intimidate local press through subpoenas. Earlier: Apr. 24. [WSJ Law Blog]
  • US Supreme Court throws out punitive damages ruling in Buell-Wilson case, lets rest of decision stand. Earlier: Jan. 4 and links therein. Beck and Herrmann also discussed the case in March in the context of a larger discussion of the appropriateness of issuing punitive damages against a company that relied on government safety standards in good faith. [LA Times; AP].
  • Big LA Times piece on the still-pending Extreme Makeover suit, where a family seeks to hold ABC responsible for an intra-household dispute over the spoils of a reality show. Earlier: Mar. 4, Aug. 12, 2005. [LA Times]
  • KFC may have won on trans-fats litigation, as David reported May 3, but they capitulate to Jerry Brown’s pursuit of Lockyer’s equally bogus acrylamide suit over the naturally-occurring chemical in potatoes (Oct. 05, Aug. 05, Aug. 05, May 05, Apr. 04, etc.). KFC will pay a nuisance settlement of $341,000 and will add a meaningless warning in California stores. (Tim Reiterman, “KFC to tell customers of chemical in potatoes”, LA Times Apr. 25).
  • McDonald’s sued over hot coffee. Again. One of the allegations is that McDonald’s failed to secure the lid, which is a legitimate negligence suit, but there’s also a bogus “failure to warn me that coffee is hot” count. [Southeast Texas Record; and a Southeast Texas Record op-ed that plainly read Overlawyered on the subject]

“Goodbye, war on smoking. Hello, war on fat”

But somehow, “the food industry” doesn’t sound quite as evil as “the tobacco industry.” Something about food — the fact that it keeps us alive, perhaps — makes its purveyors hard to hate. For that matter, the rationale for recent bans on smoking is the injustice of secondhand smoke, and there’s no such thing as secondhand obesity. …

These obstacles don’t make the assault on junk food futile. But they do clarify how it will unfold. It will rely on three arguments: First, we should protect kids. Second, fat people are burdening the rest of us. Third, junk food isn’t really food….

A fact sheet from [Iowa Sen. Tom] Harkin implies that schools should treat milk, French fries, and pizza like soda, jelly beans, and gum.

(William Saletan, “Junk-Food Jihad”, Slate, Apr. 15).

New Class Action Against McDonalds

On Friday, a new class action lawsuit was filed against McDonald’s for not fully disclosing the presence of dairy products and wheat glutens in their french fries. The suit was prompted by McDonald’s admission two days earlier that their fries do include milk and wheat, at least in small amounts. The suit does not appear to list any specific instances of people being harmed by trace milk and wheat in french fries, though a separate suit filed in Miami by the parents of a 5-year old girl alleged the fries caused their daughter to get very ill (though according to the article the parents continued to feed the girl McDonalds fries for two years).

AG Lockyer joins California french-fry suit

Bill Lockyer has thrown the power of the state of California and its taxpayers behind the litigation lobby’s attempt to extract money from just about every food manufacturer over the alleged dangers of acrylamide. We’ve been covering these suits for years: see Apr. 6, 2004 and links therein. Of course, if every single food product and commercial building structure contains a Proposition 65 warning, the net effect is to make the real important warnings, like those on cigarette packages, less meaningful, rather than to warn people of the uncertain link between french fries and minimally elevated risks of cancer, a risk dwarfed in health effects by the difference between french fries with and without trans-fats. The press coverage universally makes no attempt to parse the studies on the subject. The fact that the press-hungry and politically ambitious Lockyer filed his suit relatively quietly on a Friday—and sued only national fast-food chains, without including two popular local chains that also serve french fries—for Saturday news coverage suggests that he’s doing this as a favor for some trial-lawyer buddies and is hoping to avoid public embarrassment. This is a good opportunity for the blogosphere to prove its stuff. And will all the Democrats who claim to be part of the “reality-based community” and correctly speak out against Republican junk science like “intelligent design” raise their voices when it’s a Democrat using junk science for corporation-bashing, or is science only to be used when it can embarrass Bush? We shall see. (Tim Reiterman, “Carcinogen Warning Sought for Fries, Chips”, LA Times, Aug. 27). Other Lockyer coverage.

McDonald’s settles trans fat claim

The fast-food chain has agreed to settle charges arising from its having missed a self-announced deadline for reducing the use of trans fats in its cooking oil. It will pay $7 million to the American Heart Association for an educational campaign, $1.5 million to publicize its future progress in the quest for better fats, and unspecified attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs. The “chain said it had issued a news release in February 2003 saying its plans had been delayed,” but Stephen Joseph, a San Francisco attorney who runs a pressure group called, sued contending that the restaurant chain did not adequately publicize the setback. (Joe Garofali, “$7 million for suit on trans fats”, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 12). For attorney Joseph’s earlier suit demanding unsuccessfully that the sale of Oreo cookies to kids be banned, see May 13, 2003.

Foodmakers say the use of trans fats is the only practicable way left to avoid the prospect of limp and off-flavored French fries and donuts, in part because earlier campaigns succeeded in demonizing butter, animal and tropical fats, though some of those fats are now considered less harmful than their replacements. Many nutritionists

had made their careers telling people to eat margarine instead of butter,” said Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of a handful of medical researchers who have led the fight against trans fat. “When I was a physician in the 1980’s, that’s what I was telling people to do and unfortunately we were often sending them to their graves prematurely.”

That certainly inspires confidence in the idea of giving nutritionists access to the coercive machinery of government to enforce their recommendations, doesn’t it? (Kim Severson and Melanie Warner, “Fat Substitute Is Pushed Out of the Kitchen”, New York Times, Feb. 13).

Update: California french-fry suit

Approximately forty percent of the food the world eats contains acrylamide, a chemical that is formed by cooking starches and that has uncertain carcinogenic effect. The LA Times reports on the pending lawsuit against fast food vendors in California under Proposition 65 (Sep. 19; Dec. 27, 2002), which requires labeling of all carcinogenic substances with warnings–never mind that if a warning is posted everywhere, it effectively renders all the warnings meaningless, as they essentially are in California, where the warning can already be found in nearly every parking garage. While Burger King and other large corporations are fighting against extending the labeling requirements to french fries, it’s hypothesized that smaller mom-and-pop shops will simply cave and post warnings rather than pay lawyers to defend the use of heat in preparing food. (Miguel Bustillo, “Are We Ready to Fret About Our Fries?”, LA Times, Apr. 6; Andrew Bridges, “Studies find no acrylamide, cancer link”, AP, Mar. 29; Center for Consumer Freedom, “Wayward Warnings”, Aug. 5).