Filed Under: Big Fat Lies

Chasing Ambulances is Hungry Work

Somehow we knew it would come to this. Amid dire warnings about fast-food commercials from culinary know-it-alls like Yale’s Kelly Brownell and alarmist reports about growing food portions, the climate is right, it would seem, for trial lawyers to haul quick-service restaurants into court.

John Banzhaf, a Georgetown University shark who practically pioneered the aggressive tobacco tort, is not just threatening to sue outfits like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut — he’s gleefully telling CBS about how successful he’s been so far. In an appearance on Monday’s CBS Early Show, Banzhaf took credit for the multi-billion-dollar tobacco lawsuit industry, and warned Americans that they “had better worry about the trial lawyers because they will be forcing the same changes on fast food.”

CBS pointed out in another story last week that the tobacco model might fall short, as “there’s no proof that food is addictive.” Still, food maven Marion Nestle told the network that “unless the food companies police themselves” and change their ways, “more and more people are going to be looking at those [legal] approaches.” Speaking to a reporter from The Scotsman, Banzhaf was less philosophical: “We take Joe Camel off the advertising billboard because it is marketing bad products to our children, but Ronald McDonald is considered cute. How different are they?”

One problem, though, for Banzhaf: his “victories” over McDonald’s and Pizza hut had nothing — zero — to do with fat or nutrition. And as for the link between the Tobacco Wars and the current attacks on “Big Food,” we defer to Jonah Goldberg, who recently noted that the analogy “fails miserably in every important way.”

“People don’t need to smoke,” writes Goldberg. “They do need to eat (you could look it up).”

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