McDonald's Corp., Burger King Holdings Inc. and Friendly Ice Cream Corp. are being sued in state court in Hartford, Conn., by Washington-based and PETA-backed Cancer Project. The restaurant chains have been accused of selling chicken that they knew contains PhIP, a chemical that can cause cancer even in small amounts. The group filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Connecticut residents who have been diagnosed with cancer and is seeking class-action status on behalf of everyone who bought or ate grilled chicken from October 2006 to this month.

“We’re not looking to have them stop selling the product,” Daniel Kinburn, a lawyer with the Cancer Project, said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. “The product is a legal though dangerous product that should be sold with a warning, like a chainsaw.”

All three restaurants have defended their food safety standards. Burger King issued a statement that read in part, “The compound referred to in the lawsuit, PhIP, is a naturally occurring by-product of the normal cooking process and is produced when any poultry, meat or fish is broiled, fried or grilled. There is no evidence that the small amount of PhIP contained in food poses a significant health risk.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers, issued its own statement pointing out the Cancer Project's animal-rights background. “The Cancer Project is a branch of the similarly misnamed “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” (PCRM), which admits that less than four percent of its members have graduated from medical school. PCRM’s role at the center of the animal rights movement has been exposed in Newsweek and The New York Times. The group derives more than two-thirds of its budget from Nanci Alexander, the wealthy founder of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. PETA has steered an additional $1.3 million to the organization,” it said.

“This so-called Cancer Project is just an animal-rights vehicle created to spread fear about perfectly safe food that’s not PETA-approved,” said David Martosko, CCF’s Director of Research.

Sources: Bloomberg, Center for Consumer Freedom

Q3 sales strong for McDonald's

McDonald's Corp. announced strong results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009, fueled by positive comparable sales in every area of the world. In constant currencies, the Company posted higher revenues, operating income and earnings per share compared with the prior year.

"Alignment behind McDonald's long-term business strategy, the Plan to Win, is clear as our growth continues to be a systemwide effort with each area of the world contributing," said McDonald's CEO, Jim Skinner. "McDonald's global results demonstrate the resilience of our strategies and our ability to execute successfully."

McDonald's reported the following third quarter highlights:
  --  Global comparable sales increased 3.8% with the U.S. up 2.5%, Europe up 5.8% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa up 2.2%
  --  Consolidated operating income increased 6% (11% in constant currencies) over the prior year
  --  Earnings per share of $1.15, a 10% increase (14% in constant currencies) over the prior year
  --  The quarterly cash dividend increased 10% to $0.55 per share – the equivalent of $2.20 per share annually - effective fourth quarter 2009
  --  Approximately $1.3 billion returned to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends

Skinner said, "The consistent strength of McDonald's business is the result of our commitment to the customer. We are keeping the McDonald's brand in demand and growing market share around the world by serving great tasting food at an outstanding value in a way that's convenient to today's consumers."

For the quarter, the U.S. generated solid comparable sales and drove an operating income increase of 6%. The ongoing appeal of McDonald's core menu along with favorable consumer response to the new premium Angus Third Pounders and McCafe espresso-based coffees fueled the U.S. results.
McDonald's Europe delivered strong third quarter comparable sales driving a 10% increase in operating income in constant currencies. In Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA), operating income for the quarter rose 21% in constant currencies with Australia and China leading the segment.

"We begin the fourth quarter from a position of strength,” Skinner said, “and I am confident that our focus on the customer and commitment to financial discipline will continue to deliver long-term profitable growth for our System and our shareholders. For October, despite a declining informal eating out market around the world, we expect consolidated comparable sales to remain positive."

Source: McDonald's Corp.

BJ's Restaurants adds barbecue items to menu

BJ's Restaurants Inc. announced the national introduction of five new menu creations. The new menu items include a lightly breaded Crispy Calamari, a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, Grilled BBQ Chicken Sliders, BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders, and BJ’s Pizookie Trio.

“We are constantly evolving our food and beverage offerings to keep BJ’s menu both contemporary and approachable, at a good value for our guests,” said Matt Hood, BJ’s chief marketing officer. “By introducing more new items we are giving our guests the opportunity to try something new or experience a twist on a BJ’s favorite, like the new Pizookie Trio which offers three mini versions of our famous dessert on one sharable plate.”

BJ's Restaurants, Inc. currently owns and operates 89 casual dining restaurants under the BJ's Restaurant & Brewery, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse or BJ's Pizza & Grill brand names.

Source: BJ's Restaurants Inc.

Listeria fears prompt recall of 14 pounds of brisket

Lone Star Brisket Co., a Thorndale, Texas, establishment, is recalling approximately 14 pounds of smoked beef products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

The product subject to recall is 2.5-3-pound vacuum sealed packages of "Texas Star Meat Company Half Smoked Beef Brisket Fully Cooked" and 4-5-pound vacuum sealed packages of "Texas Star Meat Company Whole Smoked Beef Brisket Fully Cooked." Each label bears the establishment number "EST. 27340" inside the USDA mark of inspection and a day-glo sticker "Sliced" next to the product label. Each package also has a Use By/Sell By date of "12/16/09," and can also be identified by the case code "285A."

The smoked beef brisket products were packaged on October 14, 2009 and distributed to a Department of Defense Commissary in Oklahoma City, Okla. The problem was discovered through FSIS's microbiological sampling program. FSIS has received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of this product.

Source: FSIS