Blames Massacre on Food Additive : Mass Killer’s Widow Sues McDonald’s Chain

Times Staff Writer

On the second anniversary of the attack on a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro that left 21 people dead, the killer’s widow and two children filed suit against the fast-food chain in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that additives in McDonald’s hamburgers helped spark the violent outburst.

The suit, which seeks $5 million in damages from McDonald’s and James Huberty’s former employer, said the restaurant chain “knew of the potential dangers” of monosodium glutamate added as a flavor enhancer to its food, yet failed to do anything about it.

The MSG and a variety of heavy metals to which Huberty was exposed in his job as a welder “combined to cause the violent outburst” that resulted in Huberty’s death inside the restaurant at the hands of a police marksman, said Etna Huberty and her two daughters, Zelia and Cassandra, in the suit.

Huberty, they said, “routinely, including July 18, 1984, bought and consumed” the food with the offending additive.


Moreover, Babcock and Wilcox Co. should have warned Huberty when he worked for them as a welder at a utility plant in Canton, Ohio, that he was being exposed to lead, cadmium and other potentially toxic metals--all of which were found in Huberty’s body in quantities that were “extremely high and well beyond what may be considered poisoning,” according to the suit.

The federal Food and Drug Administration, after an examination of MSG in 1980, said the food additive appears to be safe, but has been found when ingested in large quantities to induce “temporary reactions” in some people, including headaches, facial pressure, chest pains and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Huberty walked into the McDonald’s on the afternoon of the attack and opened fire with a variety of weapons, killing 21 people and wounding 15 before he was cut down by police gunfire from outside the restaurant.