McConnell Goes to Bat for Big Restaurants


Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

July 17, 2003

It’s interesting that Senator McConnell thinks the $200-billion restaurant industry desperately needs special protection from judges and juries. I suppose he fears that courts would look dimly on some of the fatty foods and marketing practices of big restaurant chains like Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, which are headquartered in his home state. That he has so little confidence in the courts and the ability of restaurants to prevail on the merits is striking in itself!

Nobody wants frivolous lawsuits. But it is easy to see how just talk of litigation has spurred restaurants and manufacturers to reconsider the health aspects of their foods. I don’t know if they were connected, but I was glad to see Kraft announce a nutrition initiative just weeks after a lawyer sued the company for its use of trans fats in Oreos. And it seems to me that consumers deserve to have their day in court if they believe that the foods they ate contributed to obesity and related diseases. If suits are frivolous, they’ll quickly be tossed out of court.

I recommend to Senator McConnell that he sponsor a companion bill that would prohibit frivolous litigation waged by the same companies he seeks to protect. McDonald’s is notorious for trying to use various countries’ courts to silence its critics. It recently sued an Italian food critic for millions for simply alleging that fast food is “repellent.” But I suppose there are fewer campaign contributions to be had from ordinary citizens who use the courts to assert their rights under the law, than from major corporations.

 

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