Excerpts from: Restaurant obesity liability considered
UPI , May 8, 2003

Lawyers are beginning to target the restaurant industry to attempt to hold it accountable for the nation's drastic obesity epidemic, legal representatives said Thursday at a food policy meeting.

"We have a new movement," said John Banzhaf, a professor of law at The George Washington University Law School in Washington who helped lead litigation against the tobacco industry. The fight against restaurants, he told the audience at the National Food Policy Conference, has just begun.

"I don't think we can sue people to get them to exercise, but we can do something about fast foods," he said. Banzhaf said he is not fighting to prevent the right to choose what a person eats. Instead, he is calling on the restaurant industry for full disclosure of all nutritional content of their products so consumers can make informed choices.

Lawsuits currently are underway and Banzhaf said he already has seen some progress. For instance, his lawsuit against McDonald's for not disclosing the company cooks their French fries in beef fat has resulted in a $12.5 million settlement. Other, similar cases with Banzhaf's involvement include:

-- A class-action lawsuit against Big Daddy Ice Cream, claiming the Florida company falsely advertised its ice cream as a diet product and failed to report the product's true calorie and fat content;

-- A lawsuit against Robert's Gourmet America, of New York City, the maker of the snack chips Pirate Booty, for failing to disclose the product's true calorie and fat content;

-- A lawsuit against Pizza Hut in Seattle for failing to disclose its Veggie Delight Pizza contains beef fat,

-- A lawsuit against McDonald's in New York for contributing to childhood obesity, and

-- A lawsuit by a New York City man who sued McDonald's for contributing to his obesity. However, Banzhaf said individual suits against restaurants have not proved successful and this case has stalled.

Banzhaf said there is a "growing proliferation of fast food restaurants with their super-size portions and ubiquitous advertising," and therefore lawyers "will continue to target the deep pockets of the food industry."