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Something I originally posted to the "screaming scales" thread...but it was suggested that this might make its own compelling thread....

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So, what do you folks think of this business where a NYC lawyer filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of obese children, against McDonald's restaurants, claiming that the restaurant promotes childhood obesity? The judge threw the case out, but stated that it can be re-filed. Click here to read interesting articles about this, released today by Fortune magazine.

Fortune cites a controversial new book called "Food Politics," by Marion Nestle (pronouced "Nessle," and no relation to the candy bar people), the head of the nutrition department at New York University. Nestle offers compelling evidence to suggest that the restaurants, not the people, are more to blame for America's obesity epidemic.

The fast food industry's stance on this is that weight can be controlled through a person's individual food and exercise choices. They also claim that nutritional information on all their products is always available to customers upon request. Their response to this suit was a full-page ad in the New York Times with a photograph of a pot-bellied man, and the caption, "Did you hear the one about the fat guy who sued the restaurant for making him fat? IT'S NO JOKE." (I was absolutely INSULTED when I heard about the ad.)

Legal experts are saying that it could be the next "tobacco." Reason being, whatever legal response the fast food industry can come up with, boils down to: "If you're dumb enough to use our products than you deserve to contract the diseases they cause." NOT a solid legal argument, for those of you studying LSAT concepts on argument...

One expert opinion I read today pointed out that the tobacco industry was forced to recompense billions of dollars to victims who not only smoked by choice despite the fact that they knew the product has health risks, BUT, for conditions they contracted that are often reversible such as addiction and cancer. This expert argued that one of the main diseases caused by childhood obesity, Type B diabetes, is IRREVERSIBLE and lasts the child's whole life once contracted...and using that logic, we could very well see the food industry held similarly accountable.

Personally, I was THRILLED to hear about this lawsuit. Maybe places like McDonald's MAKE AVAILABLE nutritional information...but how many people, in real world situations, actually ask for it? And has anyone else noticed the disparity in the price of healthy restaurant selections versus the rest? You can get a Whopper at Burger King, 900 calories, for 99 cents...but you have to pay $3.29 for a salad. And it's like that in grocery stores, too. (If we were to eat the way the government recommends, we'd always be broke and seriously inconvenienced.) Often times, it's both cheaper and more convenient to use a drive-through and buy burgers than it would be to get a salad at the drive-through or go to the grocery store and get something healthier.

And fast food restaurants in particular do everything they can to market DIRECTLY TO KIDS, i.e. toys in the Happy Meal, play areas, etc. We take our kids to fast food restaurants maybe twice per month...and despite the fact that we don't watch TV at home (long story), they STILL always know which kid's meal toys are at which places. WHY IS THAT, and shouldn't there be some limit placed on the way unhealthy food is marketed to children?

What do you guys think?
Original Post
i think that any time someone can take a good chunk of money away from a large corporation is good.

while it is true that we still have our freewill, fast-food marketing takes advantage of our tendency toward a fast, cheap lifestyle.

however, you can't blame it all on the marketing. i think it's a team effort. if there were more parents like you, heidi, maybe there wouldn't be as much of a problem.
but the restaurants are the only ones who have never taken responsibility in the dangerously growing bad-eating epidemic in the U.S...so... yeah. lawsuit all the way. that's the only way they'll listen.
I agree with Heidi's points about the culture of fast food being obnoxious and misleading, but I can't agree that fast food is the same as smoking.

The HUGE difference between the fast food and tobacco situations is that nicotene is chemically addictive over the long-term, which interferes with the user's ability to make a rational choice about whether to even USE the product. The cig companies KNEW this (the prosecution had the memos) and they put it in there anyway, without the knowledge of their customers. They created -- for lack of a better word -- junkies in search of a fix.

You choose to eat or not eat fast food; you smoke because your body has to have it. It's 7 degrees out right now, and there's probably people smoking out there because they need it that badly. You just don't get the same effect from going to Subway instead of Wendy's for lunch.

Should activist groups keep the pressure on fast food makers to change their business practices? Absolutely. But lawsuits? Personally, I'd say no.

Jason
I work for a major grocery chain and can agree heartily with two points Heidi made: firstly that big corporations target kids in many ways right from the sugary kid's cereals given kids'-eye-view prominance on displays (with less expensive and healthier selections either down by the floor or above our heads. And what frazzled parent hasn't run the gauntlet of the candy display at the checkout counter? My kids both could sing out the names of fast food restaurants based solely on their logos before they could string together a full sentence.
Secondly, sadly enough unless you make a concentrated effort it really does cost more to eat "healthy". Just had a conversation the other day about this with a cashier at the store who was commenting on the cost of a fresh orange and a whole wheat bagel. Much easier and cheaper for a manufacturer to pack foods full of white flour and sugar and corn syrup.
Retail psychology is a powerful tool and everything from the position of the aisles to the colour of the lighting are all carefully orchestrated. Yes we all have the power of choice but at the same time our minds are swayed by messages that are cleverly constructed.

Lawsuits? Well I would say that due to the world of technology and information from TV to newspapers we are all aware that we should eat less junk food and exercise more. Given this information we have to make a choice.....get the quick fix on the way home from work/keep the kids quiet... or not. The kids may want it, but unlike a lot of tobacco lawsuits the kids are not being deliberately lied to. I have always had a problem with lawsuits against tobacco firms when people are well educated upon the addictiveness of tobacco and it's side effects.
They are not being told that burgers are healthy/make them look cool/will help them relax or whatever.

The fact is kids think they are going to live forever, the food tastes nice to them....and they want the excitement of the crappy plastic toy.

I do take my kids to these resturants maybe twice a month, they are told it is a treat. I give my kids a balanced diet at home with lots of fruit and veg and my 8 year old prides himself on making his 5 pieces of fruit/veg a day. He attended the school's healthy heart club last year which certainly inspired his food choices.

The big retail monsters will always be there. Retail psychology will always find a way into our childrens easily swayed minds even with a change to the law on advertising. It is up to the adults to educate and encourage so that hopefully they make the right choices (as in all things).

Restricting availabilty of fast food resturants would make no difference, as we can still heat up our unhealthy tv meals in the microwave.

Ho hum. Still hate burger resturants despite my ramblings!
IT'S THE BEEF INDUSTRY AND THE CATTLE RANCHERS AND THE NATIONAL DAIRY ASSOCIATION THAT RUN THIS COUNTRY. AND PEPSICO.
That's why the prices of the hamburers are so low. EAT MORE BEEF.....

Hey, i used to be a carnivore too. But I CHOSE to not eat at Fast Food restaurants anymore. Or drink milk.
Obesity is caused by a lot of things. And I think our culture promotes it. But you can choose to live in a more healthy and responsible way. Dammit.
To me, this is more of a question of who can I blame for something I did kind of thing. I think that most people don't want to take responsibility for themselves... they want to blame anybody or company they can think of for their problems or conditions. Few seem to want to say hey, I made these choices! I am this kind of person, I chose this, and now I am or have this.

Yes, the food is unhealthy and most places are not very forthcoming with that. But as Lewis Black said on The Daily Show, it's not too far-fetched to imagine that fat deep fried in fat is fattening or not good for you. Smiler Also remember that most people are not eating fast food daily because they want nutrition... they want speed, they want something in them, and they probably want it cheap. If someone had different priorities, we might have drive-thru tofu ravioli with turkey meatballs made-to-order places. Smiler

Imagine the lawsuits we wouldn't have, the entire industries we wouldn't have, and other things people wouldn't need if people just took responsibility for their own actions and choices!

EAT BUFFALO! Smiler Tastes like red meat (and it is) but is leaner than chicken. Smiler
I agree that the biggest part of this equation is personal choice, and that parents should be more responsible. I'm a fat lady with skinny kids, and I'm pretty proud of that. HOWEVER....

1. Tonguetied mentioned that tobacco companies were lying to us, but food manufacturers aren't. I DISAGREE. Look at the sugar content of, say, Sugar Frosted Flakes (up to 50%). Something like this does not even deserve to be classified as a CEREAL, because it's in actuality more like CANDY based on its sugar content, but yet it's allowed to be marketed and sold as a cereal.

Furthermore, anytime a food manufacturer is advertising an unhealthy food, they say something like "part of a nutritious breakfast." This is extremely misleading when you consider what SEVERAL other components would have to be eaten to truly make a *nutritious* breakfast out of crap like that, according to medical guidelines (you know...a pound and a half of fruit, three glasses of milk, one large bran muffin, etc.).

2. My husband (who I love very much but who I disagree with on this point) said that he favors a re-examination of food marketing practices, but not lawsuits. In my opinion, there has been a major shift since the 1950's from corporations who really care about customer service, to corporations who care only about the bottom line, even if it means crappy service and shafting the consumer.

I honestly believe that unless you hit corporations where it hurts them, by filing large suits that cause negative PR, nothing can be changed because they just don't care. If I call a customer service number, I may feel good about having spoken my mind...but nothing will change. Systemic change can only come from manufacturers being FORCED to change.

3. If companies really cared about the influence of their product on people's health, then why don't we see Britney Spears being the celebrity spokesperson for Veggie-burgers, or hummus? (That said, you'll have to pry Pepsi out of my cold, dead hands...it is my one vice....)

4. I think one of the biggest pitfalls is TIME. Nobody has it anymore! The speed of multi-media has required workers to do more work in less time, and in the corporate world, Americans (those who still have jobs anyway, but that's a different rant entirely) are working a longer work-week than ever just to keep their jobs. And families with kids have to have two adults with jobs just to make ends meet...the result? Who has the time or the energy to go to the store, cook dinner, etc. between soccer practices, PTA meetings, doctor and dentist appointments...you get the idea. I think that food is only PART of an inherent problem with our lives being WAY too overcomplicated...and millions of people compensate by using the drive-thru or the frozen lasagna.
Well,I was extremely overweight as a child and well into my teens,and I know a big part of it was because I ate nothing but fast food burgers most of the time.That being said..it was my CHOICE to eat them,and my CHOICE to be lazy and sedintary at the same time,so I don't blame anyone but myself for getting so heavy.
I finally was able to lose the weight about 10-12 years ago.I've kept it off,but I still LOVE a Big Mac every now and again..and if I feel like eating a Swiss Cake Roll or something,then I eat it and don't feel guilty in the least.I don't have kids,but my girlfriend does..so I've seen first hand how much easier it is to simply stop on the way home from where ever and pick up dinner.They're not overweight and probably never will be..but that's just due to being blessed with a fast metabolism.She is careful to limit their sugar intake to almost nothing though.
As for the issue of lawsuits,I think it's ridiculous.Unless of course Ronald McDonald actually comes to your house,sticks a gun in your face and force feeds you Chicken McNuggets. Razzer

Brandi
:Random unorganized thought warning:

With Micky-D's posting it's first ever loss yesterday, I think that consumers are starting to hit them where it hurts. They are trying to change, but their idea of change is a $1 menu, not healthy alternatives, smaller portions, etc... Another thing is that their portions are larger because that is what the public wanted (as validated by the amount of folks who supersize their orders). People (like me) used to buy 2 fries when that was the only size that they had, so they started selling large fries, then even larger fries. Heck, the fries are why so many people went there in the first place, they used to do all sorts of commercials about how good their fries (which they forgot to tell us where fried in oil made with beef fat...) were.

If people continue to stay away, then they will be forced to change for the better or go out of business. I don't think litigation is the way to go, I would go more for boycotting them. I know where you're coming from Heidi. Hit 'em where it hurts. I have discovered just how good boca burgers really are.

you can now resume your coherent postings
I've heard the point made also that economics comes into play when it comes to our unwise food choices. A person with three dollars in their pocket is more likely to head to the local fast food place with it's dollar menu to fill up their stomach...easy and effortless. Takes time to determine what that same three dollars would buy in the grocery store! Well, beyond the greasy deli burritos and jojo potatoes... Wink
I've not read the book, but I heard a very interesting interview with the man who wrote "Fast Food Nation". He basically says every aroma and flavor in practically EVERY snack and fast food menu item is CREATED in a factory in New Jersey. Grimacing! Now I know why I've always hated the Golden Arches and Burger King. Having said that, a Wendy's junior bacon double cheeseburger hits the spot now and again...I gotta admit it.
Imagine if we could all find time in our busy lives to really take a look at ourselves and realise that we're worth taking care of. Doctors won't do it for us (whole new thread entirely) so we should take responsibility for our health and well-being. Look after ourselves as well as we strive to take care of our families.
I don't buy the whole idea of lawsuits against fast food corporations. Perhaps if they could prove these people were locked in a back room and made to eat Value Meals three times a day....issues of food safety and sanitation are one thing, "it was on my way home so I just had to eat it" completely another.
quote:
Originally posted by awamutu:
[qb]don't let the kids take over your sense of what's important in this world. "oh, im so busy...oh, my kids hear this and my kids learn that"...i say take responsibilty as much as you can and don't be a corporate sheep. so what if your kid knows all the friggin jingles.. say "no" and move on. they're kids, if you supplement them with other valuable things, they'll learn to appreciate where you're coming from.
[/qb]
I agree with a lot of what you said, and I'm not trying to bring you down because your one of my favorite people on the forum, awamutu.... but as another person who does not have kids (but who has seen how much they transform the lives of my siblings, etc) I would never presume to tell parents to get over it in such a manner. It's easy for someone who doesn't have the 24hr responsibility of a child to say "just say no and move on." I've witnessed the reality and it's not quite that easy. And I know plenty of mature, responsible people that decided to take on parenthood with eyes wide open-and don't regret one bit- but they say that they knew it was going to be hard, but had no idea just how hard. So let's give parents a little bit of a break.

Alright, enough about that.

It's weird. I've read all your posts and I agree with almost everyone! I don't mean to sound so wishy-washy, but I see both sides of it. I'll admit, I laughed when I heard about all the lawsuits. But then again, that may be the only way they listen. And the publicity from the lawsuits have certainly gotten people discussing fast food culture, which is a success on some level for those fighting McDonalds.

I think suenotsusan has a point though, boycotting does work. McDonalds is struggling and has been really unsuccessful in recent years trying to come up with something that appeals to consumers (other than the toys). Not that McDs is going out of business anytime soon (I kinda hope not anyway, when you're travelling in Europe McDs have the only free bathrooms in most cities- and you don't have to buy anything Big Grin ), but I think that says something.

My best friend read "Fast Food Culture" and she's completely off fast food. Even when she craves a hamburger really bad, she'll go out of her way to find a mom&pop joint. I don't crave McDonalds at all except for the occassional french fry lust, and breakfast. Every once in a blue moon I really want a bacon,egg & cheese biscuit. Now Taco Bell is a different story. I don't claim that the Bell has anything even resembling Mexican food (there are many fabulous places for that if you want it in Chicago) but I just crave that crap sometimes. I don't know why!

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