In a speech in 2004, Center for Science and the Public Interest (CSPI) director Michael Jacobson claimed that restaurant companies do not need protection from lawsuit-happy trial lawyers looking to cash in on plus-sized clients. In response to state and federal legislation aimed at preventing these suits and protecting the concept of personal responsibility, Jacobson said: “There’s been one obesity lawsuit in the history of the United States, and suddenly everyone wants protection. It’s a non-issue.” His hypocrisy knows no bounds.

From the other side of his mouth, Jacobson is openly encouraging more lawsuits against the food industry — insisting on one occasion that trimming down the nation is “going to take a whole lot of lawsuits.” A recent “Conference on Legal Approaches to the Obesity Epidemic” heard Jacobson argue that suing restaurants is “an extremely important strategy.” Of course, Jacobson’s legal verve meshed nicely with the event’s stated purpose: “to encourage and support litigation against the food industry.” Jacoson wrote in his own March 2003 newsletter that he’s “glad that lawyers have begun to consider litigation.”

CSPI has inspired lawsuits against everything from corn chips to fruit spread. And after a CSPI “report” unearthed the remarkable discovery that ice cream contains fat and sugar, Jacobson teamed up with John Banzhaf to warn ice cream retailers that they may soon be sued for not trumpeting the calorie count of their goodies.

So much for lawsuits being a “non-issue.” And what of the claim that there has only been “one obesity lawsuit in the history of the United States”? Jacobson and Banzhaf seem to be reading from different scripts. Banzhaf says that four obesity lawsuits “have already succeeded.” Of course, he has the same strained relationship with the truth as Jacobson: the correct answer is two.

These guys should put their heads together to decide whose brand of truth-embroidery should be the party line. But the bottom line is that neither should be believed.