March 10, 2004
Food court

The US House of Representatives has gone and banned fast food lawsuits, even after the revelation that obesity will likely overtake tobacco as the biggest (!) preventable killer in the US by 2005.

It may seem like common sense that people should be responsible for their own behavior, and it's not exactly a new scientific discovery that eating too much junk food can cause you problems down the road. But taking away all liability on the part of fast food companies removes the only incentive they have to change their ways. Those incentives are working now, to some extent, at least.

[cross-posted at locussolus]

Posted by Paul at March 10, 2004 6:35 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Not that I agree that suing fast food corporations is the solution of the nationwide obesity problem, but isn't it the job of the courts to decide what's worth their time and what isn't?

Big Food has way too much political power.

Posted by ladygoat on March 10, 2004 at 8:10 PM

actually the legislature decides what the law is, and then the court decides how to interpret it. So as long as Congress doesn't pass a law that's unconstitutional, they have the authority they need to limit lawsuits. And the constitution doesn't govern torts so much... that's all common law.

I like that... Big Food.

Posted by paul on March 10, 2004 at 8:16 PM

Should they change their ways? If people like eating he food, whats the problem? Its a free exchange of goods.

Posted by Matt on March 11, 2004 at 12:25 AM

The big difference between BigFood and BigTobacco (or Big Tomacco, if they exist) is you don't need to smoke or chaw to live.

Posted by Barrett on March 11, 2004 at 7:30 AM

barrett, it's true that you need to eat to live. but it's also true that americans have the most staggering array of food choices anywhere in the world, anytime in history. so i think it's ridiculous to say mcdonald's has taken advantage of our need to eat, when are a hundred alternatives to the big mac. even if you must enter the home of the golden arches, you are still perfectly free to order a salad or a grilled chicken sandwich. matt's right -- they're just selling stuff a lot of people like to eat, and they should have the right to do that, as long as they are honest about the nutritional facts.

Posted by china on March 11, 2004 at 10:20 AM

I'm not sure a salad is much better, actually. Check this out:

Posted by paul on March 11, 2004 at 10:32 AM

I should say that the government should not be limiting lawsuits either. Amazing what a few bucks will buy you these days.

Posted by Matt on March 11, 2004 at 10:32 AM

China, I think we're on the same side. I think it's silly to sue McD's if your eat two double quarter pounders with cheese every day and got fat.

However, I don't think limiting lawsuits against the companies is helpful. The government has been steadily eroding the "little guy's" power to retaliate against big corporations. I'm concerned that limiting food lawsuits may someday lead to limiting drug lawsuits or other lawsuits that are more legitimate.

Posted by barrett on March 11, 2004 at 11:09 AM

The big thing for me is the scope of what is banned. Here's the actual bill.

It only bans obesity lawsuits, except in the case of a company intentionally breaking regulations.

This bill is just a knee-jerk election year bill for cheap publicity. I don't see it as a threat to liberty or justice. Tell me that you all feel sympathy for the folks that ate fast food non stop and now want to collect for having health problems of their own devising.

Posted by Bryan on March 11, 2004 at 3:26 PM

well, I may not sympathize with them directly, but I'm not exactly looking forward to paying the increased health care costs of those who've been eating fast food their whole lives either. That's a key point here - all that eating may be their responsibility, but it imposes an externality on everybody, so we have to find a policy mechanism to short circuit that behavior.

Posted by paul on March 11, 2004 at 3:43 PM

Of course a contributing factor to all this (or some would argue, main cause) is also the fact that people simply don't exercise enough:|oddlyenough|03-12-2004::11:08|reuters.html

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 15, 2004 at 2:32 AM
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