One outlandish theory about food that is consistently recycled by activists is the idea that what we eat is somehow “addictive.” In other words, people can’t control what they put in their mouths. If you are thinking no sensible human being would honestly believe this, look no further than a commentary in last month’s Canadian Medical Association Journal. Authors Valerie Taylor, Claire Curtis, and Caroline Davis claim that “neurologic findings linked to substance abuse are shared by some individuals with weight problems.”
You read that right. According to this premise, some people who choose to overeat are neurologically the same as cocaine addicts.
See where this is going? The strategy behind this “addiction” claim is to absolve individuals of responsibility for overeating and assign it instead to food manufacturers and restaurants for making food that’s, well, irresistible. And given the deeper-pockets of companies relative to most individuals, it’s no surprise to see that this strategy has drawn the interest of trial lawyers everywhere like John “Sue the Bastards” Banzhaf. Banzhaf has gone so far as to call personal responsibility “crap” and has been a driving force behind obesity lawsuits using this bogus theory.
The trial lawyers are also opportunistically joined by animal rights activists, including the preposterously named “Physicians Committee” for Responsible Medicine and its wacky president, Neal Barnard. PCRM backed lawsuits against meat producers and retailers as far back as 1999, and later applauded litigation that “holds four fast-food chains responsible for an obese man’s health problems.” Barnard also appeared in Morgan Spurlock’s ridiculous film “Super Size Me” to shill the idea that food is addictive. Apparently, Barnard isn’t just using hyperbole when he calls cheese “dairy crack.” Bankrupting establishments that serve animal products is one way that vegan activists can push their save-the-chickens agenda.
Where does this “addiction” path ultimately lead? As a psychiatrist wrote in USA TODAY: “The word ‘addiction’ is perilously close to losing any meaning. If lawyers can turn fast food into an addiction and pin liability on restaurants, it won’t be long before adulterers sue Sports Illustrated, claiming its swimsuit issue led them astray.”
But for trial lawyers looking for a super-sized payout, consequences be damned. If they can get their foot in the door here, then after suing food companies they’ll deal with the resulting mess with more litigation. As Banzhaf says: “We’re going to sue them and sue them and sue them.”