House Passes Bill To Prevent Weight-Related Lawsuits
The House on Wednesday voted 306-120 to approve a bill (HR 554) -- dubbed the "cheeseburger bill" -- that would protect the food industry from lawsuits blaming it for making people obese, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. The bill comes in response to lawsuits accusing McDonald's of causing obesity in tens of thousands of children. The food industry also has won legal protection against such lawsuits in 21 states (Quaid, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/19).
Sponsored by Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), the bill would prevent consumers from suing food makers, sellers or trade associations for injuries related to weight gain, obesity or health conditions related to obesity. The bill would not restrict consumers from bringing lawsuits against the food industry for injuries coming from tainted food, deceptive advertising or misleading food labeling. A similar Senate bill (S 908), which was introduced in April, is still pending (Higgins, Washington Times, 10/20).
Last year, the House passed a similar bill, but the Senate did not act on it (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/19). "[T]he measure stands little chance of winning Senate passage this year," CQ HealthBeat reports, adding that, "the Senate appetite for it could be considerably smaller" (CQ HealthBeat, 10/19).
Keller said, "I'm pleased that the U.S. House has agreed that we should be practicing common sense in the food court and not blaming others in a legal court" (Washington Times, 10/20).
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said, "You cannot litigate personal choices and lifestyles."
House Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said, "[The McDonald's] suits would be laughable if they were not so harmful." He added that the potential costs of the lawsuits would threaten the food industry and raise food prices for consumers.
However, critics say that the better way to make consumers responsible for how they eat is to require nutrition information on menus and menu boards.
"But of course this silly legislative effort has nothing to do with encouraging personal responsibility and everything to do with pleasing a powerful and politically connected industry," Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/19).
"I am not a fan of fat litigation, either, but sometimes we need to be patient enough to let the institutes work," Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) said (Washington Times, 10/20).
APM's "Marketplace" on Wednesday reported on the House passage of the bill. The segment includes comments from Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) (Dimsdale, "Marketplace," APM, 10/19). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In addition, KPBS' "KPBS News" on Wednesday reported on the bill. The segment includes comments from Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) (Morrison, "KPBS News," KPBS, 10/19). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.