Are Animal Rights Activists -- and Local Multimillionaire -- Behind the McDonald's-Causes-Cancer lawsuit? | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Are Animal Rights Activists -- and Local Multimillionaire -- Behind the McDonald's-Causes-Cancer lawsuit?

Today, newswires were abuzz with the information that a Washington-based nonprofit group called the Cancer Project, on behalf of two plantiffs in Connecticut, filed a class-action lawsuit against Burger King, McDonald's, and Friendly's.  The lawsuit alleges that chicken sold by the three restaurant chains contains a chemical, PhIP, which causes cancer. PhIP can form during the grilling/barbecueing/flame-broiling process.

But what wasn't noted in wire stories (such as this one by Bloomberg News) is that The Cancer Project is affiliated with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which has a strong animal rights focus.

That fact was quickly pointed out by the PCRM's enemies at The Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry-sponsored group that fights against the "food police," "the green fringe," and "a growing cabal of diet dictators."  (Their website also claims that the obesity problem in America is overblown; it features a picture of a mock newspaper headline that reads, "High Fructose Corn Syrup: Acquitted!")

The CCF says that the PCRM "derives more than two-thirds of its budget from Nanci Alexander, the wealthy founder of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida."  Alexander, who was married to Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander before being awarded $150 million in their divorce -- lives in Boca Raton and runs the gourmet vegan restaurant Sublime in Fort Lauderdale. She is known to have donated large sums to animal-rights causes.

Ms. Alexander declined to comment for this article, but Jeanne Stuart McVey, a spokesperson for the Cancer Project, confirmed that the PCRM and Cancer Watch are "sister organizations." McVey played down the notion that the groups are radical vegetarians, but did acknowledge that they "recommend a plant-based diet for better health." McVey deflected questions about Ms. Alexander's role in funding the Cancer Project. She added that the PCRM has 7,000 doctors as supporters and publishes its research in peer-reviewed journals.  

The lawsuit complaint states that for a two-year period between 2006 and 2008, plaintiff Mary Ann Ellison "ingested approximately four grilled chicken products per month" from a McDonald's and that plaintiff Rebecca Delio also ate about one chicken product per week from Mc D's, BK, or Friendly's. Because the products were not labeled as potential health hazards, the women "were denied the opportunity to make informed decisions about risk exposure."  The plaintiffs are seeking to have warning labels placed on menus, in ads, and at stores.