Excerpts from:'Legal terrorist' gives fast food groups touch of indigestion

FAST food companies yesterday received a letter from a top legal activist telling them to put health warnings on burgers or face potentially ruinous litigation.

John Banzhaf, the self-styled "legal terrorist" who led successful assaults on the tobacco industry, told chief executives to post signs in restaurants telling customers that scientific studies on animals show that eating fast food can be addictive.

"A heavy fast-food diet over time blocks the normal mechanism in the brain that produces hormones that tell us to stop eating when we are full," he wrote to McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Mr Banzhaf won a case against McDonald's for using beef fat in fries it claimed were vegetarian, but so far lawsuits blaming the industry for obesity have been thrown out. His letter notes "a growing body of evidence" that fast food "can act on the brain the same way as nicotine or heroin".

The future of the entire industry, which has revenues of hundreds of billions of dollars and employs millions of people across the world, is at stake. Mr Banzhaf said the letter puts companies on notice that they have a duty to tell customers about the potential dangers of fast food.

The lawyer believes he is leading a moral crusade against an industry that is simply bad for society.

Yesterday he gave evidence to a congressional committee that is considering a bill which would give fast food a degree of protection from obesity lawsuits.