Pass the Cheeseburger… Bill

February 24, 2011

Minnesota recently passed the Cheeseburger Bill; does this mean that consumers will finally take responsibility for their eating habits? Probably not.

The U.S. House of Representatives and a Minnesota state panel recently passed HF264, a bill that protects fast food chains from being sued by people who claim the food made them fat. If the bill, the “Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act”, better known in Congress as the “Cheeseburger Bill,” is made into law, obesity-related lawsuits against restaurants and food manufacturers would be banned.
To date, a handful of lawsuits have been filed that blame restaurant food and advertising for obesity. Only one such case, filed nine years ago, alleging that McDonald’s misleading advertising caused teens in New York to eat too much and gain weight, remains open. What we can’t forget is that these teens liked the foods they ate and were most likely on a limited budget.
Twenty-three other states have passed similar laws according to the National Restaurant Association. And, people do in fact bring these claims to court, but they are thrown out almost immediately regardless of having the “Cheeseburger Bill” in place.
Some believe that the bill forces the food industry to improve the healthfulness of the foods they serve; while others suggest that these quick serve restaurants are successful because they serve the foods that their customers want – and history has shown that as McDonald’s and Burger King, in particular have served up healthier offerings, there were very few takers for these foods. 
Times have changed, and perhaps it is the time for healthier fast foods, but laws like this do little to improve the health of our nation; and if anything give restaurants permission to create and offer sandwiches like KFC’s Double Down Chicken Sandwich or Ruby Tuesday’s Ultimate Chicken Sandwich with over 1,200 calories, 67 grams of fat and 2,477 mgs of sodium. And they are not even cheeseburgers!
These types of lawsuits are even going forward on television…for entertainment purposes. ABC's "Harry's Law" recently had a story with an overweight mother of several plump children who won 880,000 dollars in an out-of-court settlement. The more we idealize and sensationalize this type of behavior- not to mention pass the blame- the more we all lose.
Obesity is a major problem facing the nation, with close to two-thirds of U.S. adults and fifteen percent of children now overweight. A staggering 30 percent of adults are considered obese. Obesity is everyone’s responsibility and whether the Cheeseburger Bill is made into law will make little difference to the American public.  The food industry is working on reformulating to offer healthier options and consumers are becoming increasingly aware about food and health, and how personal choices affect health; as a country we’re on the right track, but have to continue to put in effort and change our mindsets if we desire permanent changes.