SW Legal studies in Business

Federal Poultry Regulation Does Not Prevent State Warnings about Poultry Safety

California appeals court held that a special interest group may pursue its goal of requiring restaurants that sell grilled chicken to post warning labels that it contains cancer-causing chemicals. Federal poultry regulation does not preempt the posting of health warnings under state law.


Consumer Protection

Key Words

Health Warning; State Law; Federal Law; Poultry

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) sued seven chain restaurants in California state court seeking an injunction, civil penalties, and declaratory relief to prevent the restaurants “from continuing to sell grilled chicken products to consumers without clear and reasonable warnings about the carcinogenic effects of those products.” Grilling chicken creates the chemical PhIP which, the suit claimed, is subject to warning under the California Safe Drinking water and Toxic Enforcement Act. PCRM demanded that there must be signs posted such as “Warning: Thoroughly cooked chicken, including the chicken served in this restaurant, contains chemicals knows to the State to cause cancer.” The restaurants replied that such warnings were preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the restaurants. PCRM appealed.


Reversed. Congress may expressly or impliedly preempt state law. Express preemption is when it is stated in federal law. Implied preemption exists if state law conflicts with federal law. The proposed warning for grilled chicken does not constitute labeling under the PPIA, and that statute does not prohibit all state regulation of poultry, so state health warnings are not preempted. Hence, the PCRM may pursue its effort to require health labels be posted in restaurants that serve grilled chicken as part of compliance with state law regarding toxic chemicals.


Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine v. McDonald’s Corp., ---Cal.Rptr.3d--- (2010 WL 3172071, Ct. App., Calif., 2010)

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