Fast food made you fat? Don't go whining to court, bill says
By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published February 4, 2004
TALLAHASSEE - Go ahead. Pop a flaky doughnut, a greasy cheeseburger or an oozing slice of pepperoni pizza. But don't blame the fast food industry if you gain weight, Florida legislators said Tuesday.
A bill to prevent fast food junkies from suing the industry for making them fat sailed past the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. No legislator voted against it. Only two lobbyists voiced concern.
"You're basically saying it's my fault, and not Dairy Queen and Krispy Kreme, that I'm fat," said Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas, R-Miami.
The bill (HB 333) is designed to block the kinds of lawsuits filed in New York and California that blame companies like McDonald's for obesity. Legislators are unaware of similar suits in Florida.
Rep. David Simmons, R-Longwood, and Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, are sponsoring bills, which protect food manufacturers, distributors, sellers and restaurateurs against lawsuits that claim food and nonalcoholic beverages cause weight gain, obesity and obesity-related health conditions, including death.
The Florida Restaurant Association supports the bill.
Simmons said people need to take responsibility for their own actions, and quoted celebrity health guru Richard Simmons: "These people who bring these suits don't need a lawyer, they need a psychiatrist."
The bill was amended Tuesday to reflect its companion bill in the Senate (SB 1394), which allows civil litigation when the food industry has not labeled food properly or has provided misleading information. That amendment was supported by the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.
"We think the public should have accurate information when they're choosing what foods they want to eat," said Debra Henley, deputy executive director of the academy.
To signify his support of the bill, Smith delivered a McDonald's sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin to Senate President Jim King last week.
Smith also said he believes parents, not companies, should be held responsible for their children's eating habits.
A governor's task force on obesity released recommendations in January to combat obesity, half of them aimed at schools and youth.