Tough Time for “Chicken”

Case 1:  Chik’n.  Quorn Foods makes a product known as chik’n.  If you have not heard of Quorn Foods or chik’n you probably will soon.  Chik’n is fake chicken that is high in protein.  That protein comes from Fusarium venenatum, a fungus discovered in a field in Buckinghamshire, England back in the 1960s.  Now the problem is not chicken that is fungus though that sounds odd and a bit disgusting.  The problem is that over 1,000 people have reportedly had  allergic reactions to chik’n.  Here is a statement from Quom Foods:

“’Quorn has been in the U.S. market since 2002 and has been enjoyed by millions of Americans. We have developed our labeling with the Food and Drug Administration, and it is accurate and fair.’” http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-chicken18-2009sep18,0,5753295.story?track=rss

A lawsuit has been filed against Quorn by The Center For Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group for food.  Quorn maintains the lawsuit if frivolous. 

Here is how Quorn describes its product:

“All Quorn™ products contain mycoprotein. Mycoprotein (“myco” is Greek for “fungi”) is a nutritious member of the fungi family, as are mushrooms, truffles, and morels. The fungus used in all Quorn™ products is Fusarium Venenatum. There are lots of great things about mycoprotein which very few people know, so here are just a few:

- Mycoprotein is a fungus which contains high-quality protein, enabling us to offer an alternative, purely vegetarian source of protein to meat. It is high quality because it has all 9 essential amino acids.

- Mycoprotein is naturally low in fat.

- Mycoprotein also contains very few calories, so we can bring you foods which deliver on taste but which don’t max out on the calorie content.

- Mycoprotein also contains essential dietary fiber, which as we all know, helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.

- Mycoprotein contains zero cholesterol.

- Mycoprotein is completely meat-free and soy-free.” http://www.quorn.us/cmpage.aspx?pageid=488

Case 2:  KFC grilled chicken.  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is sing KFC under a California law for failure to warn customers of a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) in its new grilled chicken.  You may remember Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine from an earlier case.  They are an anti-meat groups that has a few physicians in it.  The chemical is PhIP. 

Here is some information from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” Physicians Co’s web site:

“PhIP and other HCAs do not exist naturally in chicken; they form when animal muscle is cooked to high temperatures. The National Toxicology Program administered by the National Institutes of Health has identified PhIP as carcinogenic, as have the state of California and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

But KFC is not the only restaurant serving carcinogen-containing grilled chicken. Last year, PCRM filed suit against McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, Outback Steakhouse, Burger King, and Applebee’s for knowingly exposing customers to PhIP without warning them of its risks. The suit was brought under California’s Proposition 65, which states that consumers must be warned about products that contain known carcinogens.

The lawsuit is based on tests that found PhIP in 100 grilled chicken samples from the seven restaurant chains. The findings, compiled from independent laboratory tests commissioned by PCRM scientists, were published in the September 2008 issue of Nutrition and Cancer.

Burger King was the first of the restaurants to settle the lawsuit. As part of its agreement with PCRM, Burger King has posted warning signs in its California restaurants to alert customers that its grilled chicken products contain PhIP.” http://www.pcrm.org/newsletter/jun09/carcinogen.html

Questions to Consider

  1.  How might Quorn defend its chik’n?
  2. How might KFC respond to the reports of PhIP in its new chicken?
  3. What are the pros and cons of following Burger King’s lead of posting a warning?
  4. How are both cases examples of risk communication?
  5. Can neither risk be defend as accepted?  Why or why not?
  6. How ethical are the actions of The Center For Science in the Public Interest and Quorn?
  7. How ethical are the actions of PCRM and KFC?
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