The Multinational Monitor

  May/June 2004 - VOLUME 25 - NUMBERS 5 & 6

N A M E S    I N    T H E    N E W S

KFC Plucked, Gently

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in June settled Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it made false claims in a national television advertising campaign about the relative nutritional value and healthiness of its fried chicken.

The FTC also charged the company with making false claims that its fried chicken is compatible with the popular Atkins and South Beach diet programs.

Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which filed the complaint with the FTC, says the Commission action was "a day late and a dollar short."

"The obviously deceptive nutrition claims made about greasy fried chicken in these KFC ads made the campaign a national laughingstock," Jacobson says. "The FTC could have ordered KFC to pay financial penalties or to run corrective advertising, but instead it just ordered the company to stop running ads that had stopped running last year."

The FTC's complaint charged KFC with making false claims that eating KFC fried chicken, specifically two Original Recipe fried chicken breasts, is healthier than eating a Burger King Whopper. Although it is true that the two fried chicken breasts have slightly less total fat and saturated fat than a Whopper, they have more than three times the trans fat and cholesterol, more than twice the sodium, and more calories.

A second ad, the complaint charges, falsely claims that eating KFC fried chicken is compatible with "low carbohydrate" weight-loss programs. The claim is false, the FTC says, because "low carbohydrate" weight-loss programs such as the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet specifically advise against eating breaded, fried foods.

Corporate Initiative in Calif.

Corporations are pouring money into a campaign to roll back California's Unfair Business Competition Law, which has been used by many individuals and public interest groups to prevent fraud, environmental damage or public health harms.

A California Chamber of Commerce-led corporate coalition has qualified an initiative for the November ballot that would amend the law so only government entities could use the law to prevent harm. Private parties would only be able to file suit under the law if they directly lost money or property due to a corporate practice.

A wide array of corporations are funding the initiative campaign -- which has already raised more than $7 million. Among the largest funders are British Petroleum, Safeway, State Farm, Blue Cross, Bank of America, Microsoft, Nike, Kaiser, General Motors and Pfizer.

Many of these companies have been successfully sued under the Unfair Business Competition Law.

Among previous uses of the law:

  • Environmental groups sued oil companies for polluting California's drinking water with MTBE, forcing oil companies to clean up their mess before anyone got hurt.
  • When Safeway changed the date on old meat, consumer groups sued to force the supermarket chain to properly restock its shelves.
  • A citizen sued Nike for making untrue claims about labor practices in shoe manufacturing plants.

"There is no more dangerous proposition in the nation for the environment, the consumer or the public health and safety than this corporate-backed initiative which California voters will decide at the November ballot," says Carmen Balber of Election Watchdog.

Torture Business

Two U.S. corporations conspired with U.S. officials to humiliate, torture and abuse persons detained by U.S. authorities in Iraq, according to a class action lawsuit filed in June by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Philadelphia law firm of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker and Rhoads.

The lawsuit names as defendants the Titan Corporation of San Diego and CACI International of Arlington, Virginia. The companies provide interrogation and translation services to U.S. government agencies.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies engaged in a wide range of illegal acts in order to demonstrate their abilities to obtain intelligence from detainees, and thereby obtain more contracts from the government. It charges that three individual defendants, Stephen Stephanowicz and John Israel of CACI, Inc. and Adel Nakla of Titan, directed and participated in illegal conduct at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"We believe that CACI and Titan engaged in a conspiracy to torture and abuse detainees, and did so to make more money," says Susan Burke of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker and Rhodes, and an attorney for the plaintiffs. "It is patently clear that these corporations saw an opportunity to build their businesses by proving they could extract information from detainees in Iraq and on Guantanamo, by any means necessary."

"CACI and Titan perpetrated brutal human rights abuses to obtain information, a practice that is not only barbaric but leads to false confessions," says Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "The modern way to describe this is outsourcing torture; in the old days we'd call these people mercenaries."

In May, the General Services Administration, which manages much of the U.S. government's contracting, instigated an investigation of CACI, to determine if it should be barred from future government contracts.

-- Russell Mokhiber