KFC Sued Over Labeling of Trans-Fats

Discussion
Jun 14, 2006
Rick Moss

By Rick Moss


It is by no means the first lawsuit challenging fast-feeders’ on the safety of food ingredients but it promises to be a high-profile case with potential precedent-setting results.


A retired physician, Dr. Arthur Hoyte, supported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has filed suit against Yum! Brands, owners of KFC, for the use of trans fat
oils in the preparation of its famous fried chicken. According to The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, the lawsuit claims that the fast food chain “violates Washington,
D.C.’s trade regulations by selling food that’s not fit for human consumption and not adequately labeled to reflect that.”


Furthermore, the suit alleging that KFC is violating federal consumer protection law by misrepresenting the healthfulness of their food offerings. Although the lawyer representing
the plaintiff acknowledges that the FDA has not outlawed the sale of partially hydrogenated cooking oils, “That doesn’t excuse KFC from warning about it and selling it,” said
attorney Richard D. Heidman.


KFC has issued statements calling the lawsuit frivolous and stands behind the safety of all of its products. Spokeswoman Laurie Schalow points to the fact that nutritional information
about its food is accessible via the company website and posted in brochures available in stores.


The plaintiff’s lawyers are seeking class-action status for the suit, intending to ask for damages, costs and a refund for consumers who have purchased KFC products containing
trans fats for a three year period.


Moderator’s Comment: Will anti-trans fats lawsuits become more than a nuisance to the restaurant and CPG industries? Will legal action accelerate decision-making
and product reformulation to see trans-fats greatly reduced in consumer foods?

Rick Moss – Moderator

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7 Comments on "KFC Sued Over Labeling of Trans-Fats"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

It doesn’t matter if KFC “wins” in court. The publicity is awful. Compared to the public relations damage, the extra cost of reformulation can’t be significant. KFC’s best move: reformulate and settle the case ASAP.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

This is a litigious lawsuit which is unnecessary. We have established rules for labeling, set-up by the government, and YUM has been adhering to these. Although it is the ethical responsibility of YUM to communicate as much as they desire about their foods to the public, it is not the legal requirement that they pass judgment on the efficacy of transfats, and whether their customers should know this position prior to purchasing their products. Or that they should be labeled in any way except that prescribed, by law, and the FDA. The doctor should be admonished for adding to our litigious society. Instead, he is not following his sworn Hippocratic oath at the cost of our legal and medical systems.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Nuisance lawsuits definitely produce the results already mentioned: bad publicity for the defendant, big bucks for the legal team, possibly a degree of self-satisfaction for the plaintiffs, maybe some change in behaviour and recipe reformulation. The last is the only satisfactory and useful outcome and it shouldn’t require a lawsuit to get the ball rolling. But as far as slugging it out, I can’t see the large companies having to do more than swat flies to make them go away.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 8 months ago
This suit simply makes it clear that “litigation for legislation” is far from dead. And that is putting the best face on it — ignoring the fact that some of this activity may just be fueled by class-action fee seeking attorneys and “principal plaintiffs.” If the general public were aware of the percentage of the settlements in these suits that go to these two groups, perhaps companies who have complied with our legislated statutes wouldn’t have to settle with these piranha out of fear. Fear of the negative publicity both Mark and Kai point out is the real cost to companies and stakeholders. Brand franchises and company reputations are fragile things who’s principle value revolves around public trust. The potential damage to that value of even well-intentioned “research” (like the small-scale study from a few years back, published and subsequently recanted, impugning naproxen sodium or “ALEVE” for example) is huge. The many class-action suits brought against companies today, some of questionable motive at best, should be held to some standard of accountability. Perhaps they should… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

This isn’t CSPI’s first “high profile” lawsuit, and it isn’t likely to be its last; the fact that I can’t remember the specifics of any of the others suggests a similar outcome for this one: but at least they get their name in the headlines…which is, I suspect, as big a goal as any here.

Daryle Hier
Guest
Daryle Hier
14 years 8 months ago

Sadly, I’ve mentioned the coming onslaught of litigation in the food industries for many years and this is just one of many more to come. Our civil courts are crushed with these frivolous lawsuits by inscrutable lawyers and yes, the doctor should be ashamed. I see this particular suit probably going away. KFC should immediately reformulate their oils, which will be a cheaper cost…for now. I’m afraid there are numerous more cases on the horizon. Ugh.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 8 months ago

The horse is out of the barn on this issue. Trans fats are the latest “evil” in consumer products, and they are going to go away. It doesn’t matter anymore how bad they really are, just what the perception is, and the perception is that they are very bad indeed. Meanwhile, it’s perfectly legal to sell cigarettes; and fried chicken in various forms is the fastest growing restaurant menu item.

KFC should vigorously defend the lawsuit and figure out some way to remove trans fats, to improve their PR position.

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