Michael Jacobson sings the praises of lawsuits against restaurants in the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) most recent newsletter. After quoting John Banzhaf, the dean of frivolous lawsuits, Jacobson says he’s “glad lawyers have begun to consider litigation. A few areas that deserve their attention: foods that are deceptively labeled” and “chain restaurants’ failure to list calories and other nutrients on their menu boards.” But lawsuits, for CSPI, aren’t just a means to the end of food labeling. Labeling is also a pretext for more lawsuits.
CSPI helpfully issued two press releases on Valentine’s Day that lay out its litigation game-plan. The first accused McDonald’s website of understating the serving size of its vanilla reduced-fat ice cream cone. The second celebrated CSPI-inspired legislation in Maine, which would require chain restaurants to list nutrition information on menus and menu boards. Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, was quoted in the Washington Times calling the measure part of “the pervasive nanny culture.”
Maine’s legislation applies to chains with 20 or more restaurants — those companies with deep pockets for lawyers to pick. And that’s exactly what CSPI wants. They know mandatory labeling would expose restaurants to endless lawsuits. There would be thousands of menu items just waiting to be “exposed” as “mislabeled” (exactly what CSPI did with McDonald’s ice cream). And there would also be thousands of lawyers, waiting to sue the offending restaurants for violating Maine’s overbearing legislation.
“Health advocates are looking at tobacco as a model,” says CSPI’s Margo Wootan. Label, tax, sue. For more about lawyers gone wild, check out our lawsuit generator game.