Trial Lawyers Up Demands On Food Companies

Yesterday we pointed you in the direction of a CCF-authored article skewering the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI), which this summer held a conference “intended to encourage and support litigation against the food industry.” Now PHAI has announced a conference for next summer, which will examine “leading indicators” in obesity patterns. While that might sound perfectly innocent, it’s just the latest tactic in PHAI’s effort to promote massive lawsuits against restaurants and food companies.

PHAI executive director Ben Kelley, the PR hack connected to one of the biggest television frauds in history, is writing to eight major food and restaurant companies, demanding that they detail their efforts to combat obesity. Food providers, Kelley implies, bear full responsibility for the weight of their customers, and indeed the country as a whole. His letter reads in part:

Evidence that the growth of obesity is slowing or declining and that caloric consumption is going down is necessary to demonstrate that marketing and product changes by food companies are working … How will your company monitor the consumption and purchasing practices of its customers to determine whether and how the steps have affected buying and consumption of fat, total calories, and other contributors to obesity?

In other words: This trial-lawyer front group now insists that companies monitor the calorie consumption of their customers and demonstrate — before next summer — that they have somehow made people eat less. If everyone hasn’t gone on a diet, trial lawyers will sue. Actually, they will probably sue regardless. Kelley describes companies’ initiatives to reduce obesity as only “possibly precluding or minimizing the need for legal interventions.” (emphasis added)

Earlier this month, at a hearing on legislation that would prohibit these frivolous lawsuits, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked a simple question: “Is your mom liable for her good cooking?” PHAI’s twisted logic suggests that, yes, mom should be taken to court if little Billy is a little tubby — even if she strictly regulates his food intake and encourages regular exercise. Luckily, in practice, mom is probably in the clear, but only because there are much richer fish for trial lawyers to fry.

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