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Monday, June 7, 2010

One Happy Meal™, Hold the Cadmium

Friday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC), in conjunction with fast-food giant McDonald’s®, voluntarily recalled about 12 million Shrek Forever After™ collectible drinking glasses (photo courtesy of the CPSC) sold or awaiting sale at McDonald’s® locations throughout the U.S. after someone in Representative Jackie Speier's(D-CA) office alerted the CPSC that the movie-character illustrations on the glasses contained cadmium, prolonged exposure to which may pose a serious long-term health risk.

Millville, NJ-based Durand Glass Manufacturing Co.(DGMC), a subsidiary of Arques, France-based Arc International, manufactured the movie-themed glasses, which another Arc International subsidiary, Millville-based Arc International North America, distributed exclusively to McDonald's. McDonald's locations nationwide sold the glasses in May and early June 2010.

McDonald's web site addresses the recall through a series of FAQs (and answers). (For the benefit of those with short attention spans, every answer to which the statement would be germane includes the statement "the CPSC has said the glassware is not toxic.") Arc International deployed a press release. Representative Speier posted a statement on her web site, which also includes a link to a Los Angeles Times article about the recall. Only DreamWorks™ appears to be mum on the subject -- so far, at least. (Perhaps the Shrek-iverse's creators didn't retain all of the product licensing-rights like George Lucas did, not so long ago and not so far away, with the original Star Wars™ trilogy or they made McDonald's pay a non-refundable lump sum to market the glassware.) Rumors of a replacement glass featuring an image of McDonald's CEO Jim Skinnerthat transmogrifies into a Shrek-alike when filled with any non-Coca-Cola® brand soft or sport drink appear to be completely unfounded.

So, what's the contract law angle on collectible glassware manufactured for and sold to McDonald's for resale to McDonald's retail customers?

It should go without saying that the most interesting legal issues arising out of this scenario involve (1) what express and implied UCC Article 2 warrantieseach seller in the chain from DGMC (or DGMC's ingredient supplier) to McDonald's made to anyone who purchased or used the glassware; (2) to what extent, if any, each seller in that chain may have disclaimed some or all of its warranty liability, limited the remedies available to the buyer, user, or other person affected by the glassware's use, or both; (3) whether one or more warranty-making sellers breached one or more warranties to one or more buyer, user, or other person affected by the glassware's use; and (4) what remedies Article 2 affords any person to whom any seller is liable for breach of warranty.

For those wanting to add some international flavor to the mix, the CBC reports here that the recall has spread to include all Canadian McDonald's restaurants. Information from the Associated Press and Reuters, reported here, indicates that recalling the glassware sent to Canadian McDonald's restaurants raises the total number of recalled glasses to 13.4 million. Both the U.S. and Canada are partiesto the U.N. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). To the extent that the Canadian McDonald's restaurants purchased their Shrek Forever After™ collectible glassware from New Jersey-based DGMC or New Jersey-based Arc International North America, that transaction constituted a sale of specially-manufactured goods (CISG art. 3(1)), purchased for resale, rather than personal, family, or household use (CISG art. 2(a)), by a buyer located in one CISG "contracting state" from a seller located in a different "contracting state" (CISG art. 1(1)(a)). Therefore, unless the Canadian McDonald's buyers and New Jersey-based DGMC or New Jersey-based Arc International North America effectively opted out of the CISG (CISG art. 6), any breach of warranty claim the Canadian buyers might have (CISG art. 35), the extent to which any U.S. seller disclaimed any warranty or limited its liability for breaching any warranty (CISG arts. 6 & 35), and the available remedies (CISG arts. 45-52 & 74-78), will be matters for the CISG to resolve.


[Keith A. Rowley] (partially cross-posted on the Commercial Law blog)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/contractsprof_blog/2010/06/one-happy-meal-hold-the-cadmium.html

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Comments

Cf. this from today's column by David Lazarus in the LA Times:

It's bad enough that about 12 million potentially toxic "Shrek" drinking glasses were recalled by McDonald's last week.

But what should really get people's alarm bells ringing is the fact that nobody seems to know, or is willing to say publicly, how the carcinogenic metal cadmium got into paint used to depict Shrek, Donkey and other characters.

Worse, federal law allows cadmium to be in a product marketed to children as long as the product isn't a toy, raising questions as to how many other goods may be out there that also pose a health risk. [....]

The full article is here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20100611,0,2193724,full.column

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jun 11, 2010 11:39:31 AM

I am a middle school teacher in NC and came across your site while researching some information about the periodic table for my chemistry class this year. I just wanted to thank you for the great information.

We would love it if you could write a few articles for us, but I understand if your busy so a link to some of the current articles would be very helpful as well to help us spread trusted resources to other teachers. I have included a link to our page about cadmium and its toxic effects in case you would like to help us out by linking to it, tweeting it, or adding it to your Facebook profile.

http://www.thefreeresource.com/cadmium-cd-fun-facts-and-information-about-the-element

Thanks and keep the great resources coming

Bre Matthews

Posted by: Bre | Sep 7, 2010 12:46:39 PM

This is alarming! I used to love collecting these things back when I consumed fast food. Perhaps what's even more shocking is Patrick's comment. Non-food products don't require an "ingredients" list so we can only imagine how many goods may be harming our health.

Posted by: Selena Gomez | Jan 2, 2012 6:00:23 PM

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