Saturday, 21 June, 2003

Protecting the fast food industry from lawsuits?

It's starting, just as I knew it would.  A U.S. House of Representatives panel Thursday held hearings about a proposed law that would protect the fast food industry from lawsuits by people blaming the industry for their obesity.  Full story here.  I predicted this in my entries for January 22, 2002 and August 26, 2002.  Why is it that I'm right about the stuff I really wish I was wrong about?

The good thing is that any such legislation, even if enacted (which is quite unlikely), would be irrelevant.  This is a form of prior restraint that any judge worth his gavel would set aside without a second thought.  But then, any judge worth his gavel would throw out any law suit claiming that a fast food purveyor was responsible for making somebody fat.  Advocacy groups say restaurants need to more clearly document the fat and calorie content of their foods, and reduce portion sizes.  I say that people should take it upon themselves to control their own eating habits.  I'll say it again:  nobody at McDonald's is shoving that Big Mac down your throat.

What really bugs me here is that "advocacy" groups don't tell you that it's not so much the kind of calories that you consume, but rather the amount.  To a very large extent, calories are calories regardless of where they come from.  Your body breaks them down into pretty much the same thing and then stores them.  More calories in equals more calories stored, regardless of whether you're eating Big Macs or organic produce.  If you're consuming 6,000 calories a day you're going to gain weight.  Especially if your daily exercise consists of  running from bed to bathroom in the morning, and operating the TV remote in the evening.

Do I expect people to suddenly start taking responsibility for the consequences of their poor decisions?  Not any more than I expect Charlie to sprout wings and fly.  I expect that lawyers and lazy judges will continue to whittle away at the fast food industry until sooner or later a jury of fat assed couch potatoes awards some other fat ass a million dollars worth of Burger King's money.  The sad thing is that the fast food industry will bitch and moan but eventually accept these idiotic awards as a cost of doing business in the same way that the tobacco industry has.  It's a curious sort of willing submission to cannibalism that disturbs me in some deep fundamental way.  I'll have to chase that one down.