A Well-Tailored Fat Suit


John Banzhaf, the anti-smoking activist who is now promoting himself as an anti-fat crusader, says he is ready to have another go at McDonald's. Last month, when U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet dismissed a lawsuit by fat teenagers who blame the chain for their obesity, he suggested that they might have a case if they could show that McDonald's deceives its customers. Banzhaf, who is advising the plaintiffs' attorney, Samuel Hirsch, was grateful for the guidance.

"The judge took the extraordinary step of telling us what he thought was left out," the George Washington University law professor told the Chicago Tribune. "Anytime a judge tells us what he would like to see in a complaint, I love it."

The Chicken McNugget is one possible target. In his January 22 opinion, the Tribune notes, Sweet suggested that

few McDonald's customers are aware that Chicken McNuggets contain twice the fat of a hamburger, as well as dozens of ingredients besides chicken.

"Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook," Sweet wrote in his opinion.

"If plaintiffs were able to flesh out this argument in an amended complaint, "it may establish that the dangers of McDonald's products were not commonly well known and thus that McDonald's had a duty toward its customers," the judge wrote.

But arguing that McNuggets are not what they seem–second only to airline travel as a topic for lame standup comics–will not be enough to recover damages. The plaintiffs will have to show not only that they were misled but that they were injured as a result. As the Tribune put it,

They have to prove that too many trips to McDonald's led to diabetes, heart disease, strokes or other obesity-related illnesses. That will be difficult considering all the factors that contribute to obesity, from genetics to sedentary lifestyles. Add to that the number of different restaurants a person might eat at, and the picture gets even murkier.

It seems unlikely that Hirsch, who has until February 21 to file a new complaint, will be able to meet this burden. But the lawsuit already has been very effective at attracting attention to John Banzhaf. For a man who revels in any kind of publicity, even when it emphasizes his reputation as a blowhard and glory hound, this is the real measure of success.

[Thanks to Linda Stewart for pointing out the story.]

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  1. And this time I thought McNuggets were fried in a pan at home. Gawd, I’m stupid.

  2. “And ALL this time…” btw

  3. It’s the same way they did us wrong with cigarettes – they hook you in and addict you. It starts with 6 McNuggets made out of real chicken with no sauce. Then, they stick some nicotine, well actually rooster gums, in there, and add choices of barbecue and teriyaki sauce. You start craving it and coming back 3 times a day through the drive-through. Then, they jack up the price, man.

    I was a 48 McNugget-a-day eater for a while there in the late 80’s. It was only Ralph Nader’s, Michael Moore’s and Okra’s advice that got me off the cancer sticks, oops heart-desease chunks. Actually, Ralph Nader and I are the only ones who didn’t backslide back into the habit – just look at the other two!

    I say, we get the lawyers and US Government to sue the bastards, and give all the money back to the anti-Nugget campaigned waged by the folks at Oscar Meyer hot dogs. From what I know, those things are great – completely 100% beef, no lips, butts, nipples, digestive organs in there right? Right? no, don’t tell me …. hmmm, I’m startin to feel a bit piqued ….

  4. “The plaintiffs will have to show not only that they were misled but that they were injured as a result”

    And that they have never seen a “Jarod” Subway commercial.

    Fat chance.

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