New Study Finds Dangerous Carcinogen in Fast-Food Grilled Chicken
Every Sample from McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse, Chick-fil-A, and Four Other Chains Contains Cancer-Causing Chemical, Laboratory Tests Reveal
WASHINGTON—A new study published Sept. 18 in Nutrition and Cancer shows that consumers are exposed to a known carcinogen when they consume grilled chicken. One hundred samples from seven popular chain restaurants were analyzed by an independent laboratory, and PhIP, a known human carcinogen, was found in every sample.
PhIP forms when meat, especially chicken, is grilled or pan-fried at high temperatures, and, for more than a decade, it has been on the California governor’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer. The carcinogen-containing grilled chicken samples, including salads, sandwiches, and entrées, were collected from McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, Outback Steakhouse, Burger King, and Applebee’s.
“Grilled chicken is the largest source of PhIP, a potent carcinogen,” says Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., lead author of the new study and a toxicologist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “We found this carcinogen in every single sample of grilled chicken taken from restaurants in every part of California.”
PhIP is one of a group of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), and it is a known mutagen that can cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. In human studies investigating well-done meat consumption and cancer risk, the highest risk is for cancers of the prostate, colon/rectum, and breast. In 2005, the federal government officially added HCAs to its list of anticipated human carcinogens. Even small amounts can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.
People consuming PhIP and similar compounds are more likely to develop cancer, compared to other people. The new study shows that PhIP is pervasive in grilled chicken products. “You don’t want fried chicken, obviously, with all its fat and cholesterol, but it turns out that grilled chicken is peppered with chemicals clearly linked to cancer,” Ms. Sullivan said. Chemist Michael Erikson, M. S., toxicologist Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D. are co-authors.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.