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July 1, 2003

Chamber Study Shows Obesity Lawsuits No Diet Aid

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 2, 2003 – The United States Chamber of Commerce released a new study today that challenges the notion that fast food restaurants are to blame for the increase in obesity among Americans and says that lawsuits won’t help people lose weight.

“Lawyers hungry for more money should resist the temptation to take a bite out of the fast food industry,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “Overweight Americans will not find the solution to obesity in the courtroom but in making wise choices to eat smaller portions and healthier foods wherever they go.”

The Chamber commissioned former White House economist Todd G. Buchholz to examine reasons why Americans have gained weight over the last several decades. “Burger, Fries and Lawyers: The Beef Behind Obesity Lawsuits,” acknowledges statistics that over half of American adults are overweight. But the study outlines several reasons for this phenomenon: Americans are more sedentary than in years past; snack twice as often between meals as they did two decades ago; and consume about 200 calories more each day than they did in the 1970s.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers are eager to deploy the same kind of tactics they used in the tobacco lawsuits, charging that fast food restaurants have acted negligently or deceptively in selling products high in cholesterol, fat, salt and sugar. But the study found that fast-food chains willingly and readily produce nutritional content charts. “You do not need a tort lawyer by your side to pry open a brochure or to check the thousands of Web sites that will provide nutrition data [on fast food],” said Buchholz.

The study concludes, “Fast food meals & are not chemically addictive,” and one seldom hears of a fast food patron “shaking with withdrawal symptoms when they give up a turkey sandwich or frozen fish fillet.”

“Fortunately or unfortunately, Americans’ freedom of choice includes the freedom to overeat,” said Rickard. “Lawsuits against fast food firms won’t change that.”

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