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Mary Ann Ellison is suing McDonald’s, Burger King and Friendly’s because she says the companies don’t warn consumers that grilled chicken products contain a dangerous carcinogen.
When she bought grilled chicken salads for her boyfriend, John Deleone, a cancer survivor recovering from a MRSA infection, she didn't know the chicken carried what she says is a cancer-causing chemical compound called PhIP, she said.
She filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, which the nonprofit Cancer Project sponsored.
The Cancer Project said independent lab tests show that grilled chicken from fast-food chains contains PhIP and the chemical can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer even if consumed in very small amounts.
“Even a grilled-chicken salad increases the risk of developing some cancers, including breast and prostate cancer,” Neal D. Barnard, M.D., president of the Cancer Project, said.
“I had no idea. I wouldn't have eaten it myself. I certainly wouldn't have fed it to somebody else, especially a cancer survivor,” Ellison said.
“There is no scientific evidence to suggest the small amount of PhIP that can be created as a by-product of cooking methods humans have employed for thousands of years, poses a health risk,” Goody said.
PhIP naturally occurs and is created when chicken is grilled - whether at home - or in a restaurant, she said.
“It may be present at low concentrations in oven-broiled, pan-fried, and grilled meats, as a result of normal cooking,” Goody said.
Ellison said she and her lawyer hope state consumer protection law applies to their class-action case.
Goody said McDonald’s will continue to look to the FDA and USDA for their guidance on PhIP.
NBC Connecticut contacted the USDA about the chemical but calls were not immediately returned.