Big Food Was Running Scared — for a Minute

chemistry experiment

Last time, we learned from mental health counselor William Anderson how the big five American cigarette manufacturers were found guilty of…

…racketeering, conspiring to lie to the public about the health dangers and addictive quality of their product as well as secretly working to increase the addictive power of their product and hook kids.

A stricter legal climate in some areas has made Big Tobacco pay out settlements for medical problems caused by smoking, and regulations were made to keep the industry from telling a certain number of lies and to prevent advertising aimed at the young. Could Big Food ever be convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, and the willful creation of addictive products? (That last possibility seems like an open-and-shut case, since many advertising slogans are based on the premise that the food-like substance on display has irresistible allure.)

Okay, so the people objected to the suppliers’ methods, and the government stepped in and made laws, and things did not look so good in tobacco industry land. What was the response?

They went into the food business. Really.

The companies that sell you food have been taken over by the same characters that figured out how to make a fortune getting you “consumers” addicted to a substance that they knew made you sick and could eventually kill you in a horrible way. They aggressively and secretly worked in labs to make the addiction even more powerful than it naturally was. They even went after kids to sell their addictive poison. It’s not a theory. It’s proven fact. And now, they’re doing the same thing with food.

Anderson warns us that history is being repeated, and it is discouraging, or maybe disgusting is a better word.

Wave that flag

The “Cheeseburger Bill,” whose formal title was “The American Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act,” was twice introduced at the federal level, passing the House of Representatives both times, but failing both times to be passed by the Senate. Its purpose was to protect food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, retailers, advertisers, and trade associations, by placing the consequences of using their products solely on the consumer. Stand up, America, and be proud of your freedom to take personal responsibility for your obesity, diabetes, or heart disease!

If the Cheeseburger Bill had its way, federal law would prevent lawsuits from being filed by anyone who was injured or damaged. A lot of courts had already refused to hear such cases, and several states acted on their own to pass legislation protecting Big Food from liability or expectation of financial restitution.

Not coincidentally, the bill’s biggest fan was Ric Keller, who represented Florida for four terms in the House of Representatives. Politicians are allowed to accept only a certain number of dollars from supporters to finance their campaigns, and Keller maxed out that amount with contributions from fast-food chains. This probably was not a coincidence either.

But what got the food companies all in a defensive tizzy in the first place? Greg Ryan says it was one high-profile case:

States rushed to enact so-called cheeseburger bills prohibiting the claims after two obese teenagers and their parents filed a proposed class action against McDonald’s Corp. in 2003. The suit alleged McDonald’s had tricked consumers into believing their meals were healthier than they were…. [T]he plaintiffs failed to win class certification and eventually agreed to dismiss the suit in 2011.

Yes, a single lawsuit alarmed the behemoth industry so profoundly that its massive machinery swung into action. Why? They saw the writing on the wall, the tiny crack in the levee… a chink in the armor of their invulnerability.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Should the U.S. Sue Food Companies for the Costs of the Obesity Epidemic?” HuffingtonPost.com, 10/20/2014
Source: “Wary Of Litigation, States Keep Cheeseburger Bills On Menu,” Law360.com, 08/05/13
Image by The Farmacy

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