Booster Shots

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Whom can you trust? (Anyone?)

October 21, 2009 |  5:42 pm

We read today that a group called  The Cancer Project has filed a class action lawsuit against McDonald's, Burger King and the Friendly's restaurant chain for selling grilled chicken that they knew contained a cancer-causing chemical, a heterocyclic amine called PhIP. 

We also received an e-mail from a group called the Center for Consumer Freedom, warning us that the Cancer Project was "deceptive," "sneaky," and "an animal rights group in disguise."

Certainly, we have heard from the Cancer Project: It frequently writes to inform us about anti-cancer cooking classes--invariably vegetarian cooking classes. It is run, as the Center for Consumer Freedom points out, by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is an animal rights group. So yes, one might say one should take what the group says about the dangers of grilled chicken with a grain or two of salt.

But we think it's just a little bit rich that this "sneakiness" is pointed out to us by the "Center for Consumer Freedom," which is largely funded by the restaurant industry.

Read about these groups (and a few others) in a recent L.A. Times Health section article by Chris Woolston entitled "Whose side are health advocacy groups on?"

For a balanced look at meat-grilling and the chemicals it produces, read this L.A. Times article by freelancer Anna Gosline. Yes, there are carcinogenic chemicals created when one grills meat, but here's some of what Gosline had to say, from her reporting, about the size of any risk:

"Barbecue chemicals may be potent toxins in petri dishes and mice, but the evidence that they do the same in humans, at the doses we're exposed to, is weaker. Most studies find a significant increase in cancer risk only for people who eat several portions of well- or very well-done meat a week. And even then, the risk is often small."

-- Rosie Mestel