Suit Against McDonald's Proceeds

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

January 26, 2005

It makes sense that the plaintiffs in the McDonald's suit will be able to advance their case before Judge Sweet. Fast-food companies that try to convince kids and parents to eat more and more unhealthful food do so at their own legal peril. If you market products to children that cause disease, and you do it in a way that conceals the risks from parents, you may end up explaining your actions to a judge or a jury. That hardly seems that radical a notion. And, anyone who thinks this kind of litigation is frivolous should remember that McDonald's is fairly notorious worldwide for using the courts to silence its critics.

This type of litigation isn't about putting a particular chain or a particular industry out of business. It's about changing company practices and improving kids' health. If I were a fast-food executive, I'd be spurred by the Appeals Court’s decision to come up with healthier menu items, put calorie counts on menu boards and full nutrition information elsewhere, and stop advertising junk food directly to kids.

Furthermore, I'd urge Congress to focus more on improving children's health and nutrition, and less on shielding junk-food makers from litigation. Senator Harkin's and Representative DeLauro's Menu Education and Labeling bill, the MEAL Act, would be a good place to start. That bill would put calorie counts on fast-food menu boards and expanded nutrition information on printed menus at big chain table-service restaurants.


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