Industry Groups Applaud House Passage of 'Cheeseburger Bill'

WASHINGTON -- The food industry is a step closer to gaining protection against lawsuits that blame food companies for obesity, thanks to the House of Representatives' passage yesterday of H.R. 554 -- the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, also known as the "Cheeseburger Bill."

The Food Products Association, the National Restaurant Association, and the National Council of Chain Restaurants were among industry trade groups that applauded the move. Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

"This legislation -- which provides protection to the food industry from frivolous liability claims that food products are responsible for causing a person's weight gain or obesity -- is a timely and needed response to lawsuits that seek to punish companies for an individual's personal eating habits," said Hunt Shipman, e.v.p. of government affairs and communications for the Food Products Association. "We fully recognize that obesity has become a serious national health concern, affecting both adults and children, but lawsuits against food companies are absolutely the wrong way to address this issue. More energy must be put into solving the problem of obesity, and less into assigning blame for the purpose of collecting legal fees."

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) also commended the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 554, noting that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL), would prevent "frivolous obesity-related lawsuits that hold food companies liable for an individual's obesity or obesity-related health claims." A similar bill passed the House last year, the group noted.

According to a Gallup poll cited by the NRA, nearly 90 percent of Americans believe that the food industry should not be blamed for issues related to obesity and overweight.

Another restaurant-related group, the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR), also offered praise for the bill's passage. "As the voice of the chain restaurant industry, our message has always been about choice, balance, and moderation," said Scott Vinson, NCCR v.p. of government relations. "It is not an answer to the problem of obesity to merely blame one type of food or one industry." The National Council of Chain Restaurants is a division of the National Retail Federation.
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