CommunityPam's House Blend

'Cheeseburger bill' puts bite on lawsuits


WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would block lawsuits by people who blame fast-food chains for their obesity.

The “cheeseburger bill,” as it has been dubbed in Congress, stems from class-action litigation that accused McDonald’s of causing obesity in children.

The legislation’s backers say matters of personal responsibility don’t belong in the courts.

“As one judge put it, if a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of super-sized McDonald’s products is unhealthy and could result in weight gain, it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill seeks to thwart class-action obesity lawsuits against food manufacturers and restaurants.

I agree, to a point. If you don’t know that a lifetime daily diet of Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese is going to eventually kill you, then your death from obesity is just weeding bad genes out of the pool.

However, I do expect some responsibility from the fast food industry in at least educating the public about the dangers of obesity and junk food. We expect tobacco companies and alcohol companies to put warning labels on their products and produce public ad campaigns touting how to quit smoking or how to drink responsibly. Why not fast food?

Moreover, why are food producers required to place nutritional content information on a bag of frozen french fries at the grocery, but not on cooked french fries at the McDonald’s? That’s all I ask for, is that every Big Mac wrapper, french fry holder, and soft drink cup be printed up with the same nutritional information the FDA requires of groceries.

Defenders of the industry would respond that all that information is available online or on a flier the restaurant will give you if you ask for it. OK, then why isn’t that a viable alternative for groceries? Why is a manufacturer of bottled water forced to present all those zeroes on the nutrition label, but McDonald’s can keep the fat content of a McNugget secret unless I specifically ask for it?

Finally, it is not always obvious to the consumer which choices are best for them. If you’re trying to watch your fat intake, which is the better choice: the Fruit & Walnut Salad with Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette or a Cheeseburger and a Vanilla Ice Cream Cone? If you’re watching carbs, is the Grilled Chicken Club a better choice than a Strawberry Sundae? If calories are your thing, should you go for the California Cobb Salad with Creamy Caesar Dressing or the 10 Piece Chicken McNuggets with two Spicy Buffalo sauces?

So let’s compromise. If the fast food industry could agree to print nutritional information on their packaging, I could agree that they should never be sued for obesity-related claims. Seems fair to me.

(By the way, in case you’re wondering, the second food choice in that list is the better food choice, according to McDonald’s Nutritional Information online.)

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