Common Sense Weighs In

Bill would curb obesity lawsuits against restaurants

Published in CSP Daily News

WASHINGTON -- The National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) said it applauds Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for recently introducing the Commonsense Consumption Act of 2005 (S. 908), intended to end frivolous lawsuits against the food industry.

Within the last few year, several high-profile lawsuits have been filed against restaurant chains based on claims that the food served at these restaurants caused certain individuals to become overweight or obese.

Sen. McConnell's bill is a common-sense solution to curb abuse of the [image-nocss] legal system that has gotten wildly out of control, said Terrie Dort, NCCR president. Lawsuits against restaurants based on spurious claims that the food served caused' someone to become overweight or obese are patently absurd, and people of all political stripes and dispositions recognize that fact. The McConnell bill would put a stop to this kind of lawsuit, which no doubt would proliferate if left unchecked.

According to NCCR, obesity is a complex societal problem with many causes, not the least of which is the prevalence of increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Food is only one part of what must be a multifaceted solution to the problem, and all foods can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, said Dort.Our members offer a variety of healthy food options on their menusfrom salads, to yogurt, to grilled chicken.Increased physical activity must be another part of the solution, and we, and our members, support efforts to get people exercising, especially children.

She added, As the voice of the chain restaurant industry, our message has always been about choice, balance and moderation.It is not an answer to the problem of obesity to merely blame one type of food or one industry.

McConnell introduced similar legislation in the previous Congress. The House passed a similar bill last year, but it never reached a Senate vote. McConnell's bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee. A House markup of a new, similar bill is expected soon.

The NCCR, a division of the National Retail Federation (NRF), is a national trade association representing 40 of the nation's largest multi-unit, multi-state chain restaurant companies.These companies own and operate more than 50,000 restaurant facilities. Additionally, through franchise and licensing agreements, another 70,000 facilities are operated under their trademarks.

To view the full text of the legislation, click here.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumers believe that marketers are not doing enough to combat childhood obesity, according to remarks by Kellogg and Kraft Foods executives to the American Advertising Federation national convention earlier this week, reported Ad Age.com.

Representatives from Kellogg and Kraft told the more than 1,000 attendees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort that they are each, in fact, doing much to address childhood obesity.

Mark Berlind, executive vice president of global corporate affairs for Kraft, said the marketer has eliminated school advertising aimed at younger children, banned advertising at all to children under age 6, and shifted the mix of what it advertises to 6- to 11-year-olds. Kraft has also taken steps to alter products by reducing fats and offer healthier kinds of products.

Berlind said Kraft's market research found that 58% of consumers feel the industry is not dealing with the obesity issue effectively enough.

Tamara Meyer, general counsel for Kellogg, said the company has established a new internal code to foster improved visuals in their ads, for example, depicting people in ads exercising and eating reasonable portions of Kellogg products.