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Chicken McNuggets Ads Misleading, Complaint Says

October 03, 1985|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

Advertisements for McDonald's Chicken McNuggets were called "false and misleading" in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission last week by a Washington-based consumer group.

The petition was authored by Center for Science in the Public Interest and states that slogans used by the fast-food chain to promote its fried chicken bits are inaccurate.

In particular, the group alleges that the TV commercials which claim McNuggets are made from "whole breasts and thighs," are false because the product also contains chicken skin and is fried in a beef fat-based shortening.

"McDonald's is telling the public only half the story. While they brag about 'juicy breast and thigh meat' in their ads, they don't say that the meat is juicy partly because it contains high-fat processed chicken skin," according to a statement issued by the center at the time of the petition.

The nation's largest restaurant chain was faulted for other TV commercials which say McNuggets are 100% chicken. The consumer advocacy group stated that the chicken pieces contain frying oil residue and sodium phosphate, an additive which retains moisture.

A McDonald's spokesman called the complaint "ridiculous."

"Everything we say in our ads is 100% true and we stand behind it," McDonald's Bob Keyser said. "We know they are not challenging the quality of the product."

Keyser has yet to see the center's complaint, but said that concerns about chicken skin are misguided. McNuggets that are made from thigh meat contain no skin and those prepared from breast pieces contain a minimal amount, or substantially less than chickens sold in supermarkets, he said.

Keyser explained that most of the chicken skin is removed before processing. In any event, saying the food item is entirely chicken breast is correct because all chicken breasts contain skin.

On the matter of frying the chicken in a beef fat-based shortening, Keyser said that the company does use a "superior beef-and-vegetable combination shortening."

"We believe (the shortening) gives the customer the highest-quality finished product," he said.

The action against McDonald's is the latest in a series of complaints filed by the center under its Food Ad Watch program. Other firms that have been targeted include Kraft Inc., Campbell Soup Co., Del Monte Corp. and the Beef Industry Council.

The Federal Trade Commission has yet to act on any of the group's petitions, but the complaints, and the subsequent publicity, apparently have been responsible for voluntary changes in food product advertising, a center for science representative stated.

Canary Overdose--Pet birds are highly vulnerable to fumes given off by overheated Teflon and Silverstone cookware, according to the Los Angeles County Health Services Department.

A recent study by the county's comparative medicine and veterinary services division revealed that a surprising number of household birds had succumbed to a condition called "polymer-fume fever."

"Twenty cases of polymer-fume fever in domestic pets were diagnosed . . . within a three-week period. Ninety percent of the affected animals died," the county's Public Health Letter reported.

The condition can also affect humans and is characterized by a "tight, gripping sensation in (the) chest associated with shivering, sore throat, fever and weakness," the study stated. However, humans are likely to encounter the fumes only during the manufacture of polymer, the metal used in cookware coating.

The fumes are created when the polymer-coated metals are heated above 536 degrees. At that point, the polytetrafluoroethylene begins to decompose and releases minute amounts of toxic chemicals, the health letter reported.

Birds are particularly sensitive to the fumes and can show signs of the toxicity within 30 seconds. Exposure of as long as three minutes could be fatal to the pets.

The Teflon-coated pans are most likely to give off the fumes when used to boil water, and subsequent inattention results in the water dehydrating, leaving an extremely dry, hot metal surface.

Scooping for Seniors--Ice cream is a food that seems to be have been developed specially for children, who in turn, never seem to get their fill.

However, a recent survey shows that not only does ice cream's appeal span all generations, but that those older than 55 are the most frequent consumers of the frozen treat.

Those in the over-55 group eat ice cream on the average of 56 times annually--well above the national average of 41 times a year, according to MRCA Services. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 eat ice cream 43 times a year, whereas teen-agers go for a scoop or two at least 41 times a year.

The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm also found a number of other interesting trends in the frozen food world. Vanilla is the overwhelmingly favorite ice cream flavor, outdistancing chocolate by about 3 to 1. Vanilla shows signs of improving its share of the market because of a 6% preference gain in the past year. All other traditional flavors declined in appeal.

In the novelty area, the service found that ice cream sandwich consumption is up 38%, frozen juice bars climbed 72% and the relatively new frozen gelatin bars gained 344%.

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