Now Big Food = Big Tobacco?

Just when we thought it was safe to eat again, now it's turning out to be a conspiracy.

According to today's New York Times, saturated fat may not be the killer we once thought it was.  But just as we're about to enjoy our bacon-wrapped, butter-filled chicken-fried steak wrap, we're hearing that Big Food is becoming the next Big Tobacco.

"At its core, the notion of treating ‘Big Food’ like ‘Big Tobacco’ means bringing litigation against large food companies in an attempt to hold them financially liable for obesity and other food-related health issues, much in the way that lawsuits in the 1990s and the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement forced tobacco companies to contribute financially to tobacco-related illnesses and health costs, as well as change labeling and marketing strategies," writes P.K. Read for the Christian Science Monitor.

Why?  Read posits that because medical costs due to obesity are causing the U.S. so much money -- $210 billion a year, he says -- the tide is turning to do something about it, and why not sue the big food companies for promulgating the issue in the first place?

You heard me right. The lawyers are salivating (sorry), to start going after the General Foods and Nestles of the world, just like they did with R.J. Reynolds et al.

"With studies showing how obesity-related costs affect overall health care costs, the calls for holding food manufacturers financially liable have increased," Read writes.

He notes that many of the same kinds of arguments against the viability of litigation against Big Food echo those of the Big Tobacco cases. "A lack of proof of direct causality between manufacturers’ products and disease; the argument that the consumption of the manufacturers’ products is voluntary and consumers should be responsible for their own actions; a conformance on the part of manufacturers to legal regulations and labeling that should preclude any liability; and finally, that those seeking to sue Big Food for damages are doing it with an eye toward the kind of financial payouts seen under the tobacco settlement."

He points out that, when all this litigation started with Big Tobacco, no one thought the tobacco companies would win, either.


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