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McDonald's, Obesity, and Common Sense

The New York Times runs an op-ed in support of fast-food lawsuits. Don't believe me? Read on.

The showdown over the Chicken McNugget comes in a lawsuit by Ashley Pelman and Jazlyn Bradley, two New York girls who say that McDonald's is to blame for their obesity and health problems...

Judge Robert Sweet, who is hearing the Pelman suit, dismissed it earlier this month... If customers know the risks, he held, "they cannot blame McDonald's if they, nonetheless, choose to satiate their appetite with a surfeit of supersized McDonald's products."

If Judge Sweet had stopped there, it would have been a happy day in McDonaldland. But the reason Pelman v. McDonald's Corp. may yet be a problem is that the judge went on to explain how the plaintiffs could fix their suit, and gave them time to do it. The key, he said, is to focus on the fact that customers may not have a reasonable chance to learn what they are getting into when they eat at McDonald's.

Judge Sweet didn't absolve fast-food customers of the need for self-restraint. Instead, he grounded the case in a basic doctrine of tort law: that certain products may be unreasonably dangerous because they contain items that are "outside the reasonable contemplation of the consuming public." In other words, it is O.K. to sell unhealthy food. But when an item is substantially less healthy than it appears, a seller may be held liable for the resulting harm.

Judge Sweet offered up, by way of example, Chicken McNuggets. "Rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan," he wrote, they are "a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook." His decision listed 30 or 40 ingredients other than chicken, and noted that although chicken is regarded as healthier than beef, Chicken McNuggets are actually far fattier. "It is at least a question of fact," he held, whether a reasonable consumer would know that a McNugget "contained so many ingredients other than chicken and provided twice the fat of a hamburger." ...

McDonald's would position itself better in the fast-food market if it communicated more openly with its customers about what they were getting. A good start would be to listen to consumer advocates and post calorie content on menu boards.

Better still, McDonald's should ramp up its fitful efforts to make its food more nutritious. The Pelman plaintiffs have plainly identified a problem. With obesity at epidemic levels -- more than 60 percent of adults are now overweight or obese -- McDonald's is doing real harm by promoting "`extra value meals" that contain three-quarters of the calories an adult needs for a full day.

It's hard to know where to begin in refuting the arguments contained in this article, both those made by the judge and those made by the journalist.

  • "[Chicken McNuggets aren't] merely chicken fried in a pan." McDonald's food preparation areas are usually clearly visible from the counter. Has anyone ever seen a pan at McDonald's? Would anyone have any reasonable basis for believing that Chicken McNuggets are fried in a pan?
  • "[Chicken McNuggets are] a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook." Do people read ingredient lists on the things they buy at supermarkets? Virtually everything in a mainstream, non-organic supermarket contains elements not utilized by home cooks. To assume that McDonald's would somehow be different from other large food manufacturers would be ludicrous. Moreover, are we to believe that Chicken McNuggets are especially fattening because they contain numerous ingredients not utilized by home cooks? Could it be because they are coated in batter and then deep-fried?
  • "It is at least a question of fact [whether a reasonable consumer would know that a McNugget] contained so many ingredients other than chicken and provided twice the fat of a hamburger." It took me all of 20 seconds to look up the ingredient list for Chicken McNuggets. I haven't eaten Chicken McNuggets in a long time, and reading the ingredient list made it less likely I ever will again, but McDonald's made it easy for me to find out what's in them. Try finding out what's in a Chili's Awesome Blossom or a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit. Why didn't the girls sue Chili's and Red Lobster? Surely their food is fattening, and they (along with most other sit-down restaurant chains) make it nearly impossible to determine what their food is made of or how nutritious it is.
  • "[McDonald's should] post calorie content on menu boards." It's already posted, at least in every McDonald's I've been in over the last few years (not that many, actually), on a large sign on the wall, with not just calories but other nutritional information as well.
  • "McDonald's is doing real harm by promoting 'extra value meals' that contain three-quarters of the calories an adult needs for a full day." Of course they are, just as Snickers is doing real harm in promoting nutrition-free candy bars as a pick-me-up, or Coca-Cola is in promoting sugar water as refreshment. Where do you draw the line? Should we sue every company that makes an unhealthy product and then chooses to promote it?
The bottom line is that people are expected to exercise common sense. Common sense tells us that food that is fried, served in huge portions, or both, will make us fat, especially if we eat a lot of it. I may not be fond of McDonald's, but to hold them responsible for the behavior of Mlles Pelman and Bradley would be to absolve Americans of their personal responsibility to exercise common sense. Is that really what we want?

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Comments

I don't understand these people that are sueing McDonald's because it made them fat. Have some common sense people! I'm 16 years old and work and work at a McDonald's currently. I work in the grill often, and no McDonalds' food is not "A McFrakenstein creation." It is made the same way you or I would make something at home. All the chicken and fish products are just boiled in vegetable oils. Thats it. And the cheeseburgers are made on a grill just like ones you may make at your house. The only difference is that the grease is kept in and not drained out. The only other thing we do is add salt and pepper seasoning unless you request us not to. The foods are fattening and taste much better than regular food you would make at home. Thus, you should consider them candy. They're just treats, nothing more. Why doesn't anyone sue TCBY or Baskin Robbins???? Just because McDonald's offers a full course meal they get sued. Common people, have common sense and self disapline. If these people are successful in sueing McDonald's then we should consider Americans the stupidiest people alive.

how about if u lost your baby at mcdonalds while lifting heavy boxes and being stress at work . can a person sue for that if the manager there disagree and say that the pregnet person supose to pick heavy boxes anddont care about the employee health than what ???

mcdonalds is the shit there is no doubt about it. BUTTT we all know how bad this shit is for us but all of us still go there and have a huge feed.ive looked all over the net and cant find an actual ingrediants list for any of the foods so if anyone who reads this has one could u please send it white_boyz_up_here@hotmail.com cheers catch you guys later im off to have a feed of maccaz

sandra,

The men do pretty much all of the lifting there is to do. And there really isn't that much, getting boxes of meat out of the freezer is the only real heavy thing there is to lift. You really aren't forced to lift anything. If you don't want to lift it, you could ask someone else to do it.

But if that scenario were to happen, I guess you could try and sue for that.

wow i can't believe these people: suing mcdonalds for "making them obese." that's the most rediculous thing i have ever heard. OBVIOUSLY cheeseburgers, Big Macs, fries, McNuggets... these food products are processed foods filled with unhealthy ingredients. eating at mcdonalds mulitple times a week is unwise. it takes COMMON SENSE... simple simple common sense to realize the health hazards of living off of fast-food. these people suing mcdonalds are using the constitution and bill of rights to the greatest extent and to their own personal benefits: monetary compensation for their obesity and depression. If i was one of those people, I would not be shallow enough to literally steal money from corporations and the government for my own benefit. thats whats wrong with our country: we selfishly live by "every man for himself." What happened to sharing the world's resources with the all people? equality? we are so wrapped up in our own silly lives that we dont even have time to pause for a moment and ponder life in a third world country. these people dont get enough food or water, yet there is enough food in the world for every single person to eat 3,500 calories worth of food a day... which is more than anyone needs. selfish people like this need to reconsider their goals, morals, and priorities, and need to get over themselves!

mcdonald's shouldn't be called mcdonald's, it should be called mc-crap. evry time i go there to eat somthing, i get sick just a few minutes later. evry thing there is soooo unhealthy. i know that they have salads but those salads taste like... well i cant find a word for how discusting they are.... they dont taste good... oh and for those girls who tried to sue mcdonald's... nice try but if u think of it... its ur fault that ur fat cuz it was ur choice to go eat there

i want an ingredients list to help me with science please!!!!!!!!

i think its not mcdonalds fault it the people that decide to have luch there and then they make it a habit. So it really isnt mcdonalds fault i mean come on i am overweight to and i eat mcdonalds almost evryday becuase i work there.

i think its not mcdonalds fault it the people that decide to have luch there and then they make it a habit. So it really isnt mcdonalds fault i mean come on i am overweight to and i eat mcdonalds almost evryday becuase i work there.

I REALLY need to know what ingrediants are used in a cheese buger and in chips at mcdonalds for my homework. That would help alot.And i dont think mcdonals should be getting sued because it should be eaten as a treat and for those people who eat it on a regular basis and get fat... well thats their own fault they shouldnt try and blame it on mcdonalds!

I REALLY need to know what ingrediants are used in a cheese buger and in chips at mcdonalds for my homework. That would help alot.And i dont think mcdonals should be getting sued because it should be eaten as a treat and for those people who eat it on a regular basis and get fat... well thats their own fault they shouldnt try and blame it on mcdonalds!

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