Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

A Time to Sue? (on the Web: WWW.Cspinet.Org)

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

A Time to Sue? (on the Web: WWW.Cspinet.Org)

Article excerpt

To sue or not to sue, that is fast becoming the question as Americans try to deal with the obesity epidemic, heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-induced diseases. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter) and others have long encouraged legislation, regulations, and education. But, recently, lawyers who cut their teeth on landmark litigation against tobacco companies have begun suing the food industry.

Suits that have made headlines include:

* A New York woman sued Robert's American Gourmet Foods, Inc., which understated the calorie and fat content of its allegedly low-fat Pirate's Booty snacks.

* Vegetarians and Hindus sued McDonald's for stating that its french fries were cooked in 100% vegetable oil, when in fact the oil contains beef flavoring. (The suit was settled for $10 million, with another $2.5 million going to the lawyers.)

* Two New York teenagers and one man sued McDonald's and other fast-food chains for contributing to their obesity. (The judge dismissed the teens' suit, but suggested ways in which the suit, if refiled, could be strengthened.)

Many people, fuelled by stories of outrageous-sounding suits and rich lawyers, have a gut distaste for litigation. But I think that lawsuits have a place, considering that other means of promoting health have been so ineffective.

Thanks to opposition from the food industry, Congress has largely been a dead end for legislation promoting diets that would prevent obesity and heart disease. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have failed to mount effective campaigns to help people eat better diets, and the USDA has refused to require nutrition labeling on fresh meat. As John Banzhaf, a professor of law at the George Washington University Law School in Washington and one of the most vocal and effective anti-tobacco attorneys, said about food issues: "If we can't legislate, we'll litigate. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.