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    Archive for the ‘lawsuits’ Category

    In The News: San Francisco Doesn’t Toy Around!

    Fast food KidsEarlier this Summer, the Center for Science in the Public Interest generated headlines and buzz when they announced plans to sue McDonald’s if they continued to use toys to market unhealthy food to children,referring to the practice as “unfair, deceptive, and illegal.”

    California’s Santa Clara county was the first government in the United States to implement their own “no toy” rule (though only in unincorporated areas, meaning Burger King and the like escaped unharmed), and it appears San Francisco is next.

    San Francisco’s proposed rule, however, does include incorporated businesses.  Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health accurarely explains that “this is not an anti-toy ordinance; this is a pro-healthy-meal ordinance.”

    See, toys are allowed in children’s meals considered to be “nutritionally fit”.  What makes a meal nutritionally fit?  Here are the suggested standards:

    • Less than 200 calories for a single item or less than 600 calories for a meal.
    • Less than 480 milligrams of sodium for a single item or 640 milligrams for a meal.
    • Less than 35 percent of its calories derived from fat (unless the fat is contained in nuts, seeds or nut butters, or from a packaged egg or packaged low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.)
    • Less than 10 percent of its calories derived from saturated fats (with the exception of nuts, seeds, packaged eggs or packaged low-fat or reduced-fat cheese.)
    • Less than 0.5 grams of trans fat.
    • Meals must include a half-cup of fruits and three-fourths of a cup of vegetables.
    • Beverages may not have more than 35 percent of their calories from fat or more than 10 percent of their calories from sugar.

    Unless most fast-food chains decrease their portion sizes, they do not meet at least one of the above-mentioned guidelines.  My thoughts on the guidelines?

    • I like that not all fats are treated equal (a healthy item that consists of, say, sliced apples and a peanut butter dip would not be disqualified for being “too fatty”)
    • I also like that eggs are not shunned for high cholesterol levels.  Eggs are abundant in nutrients, and the whole “cholesterol in food causes high cholesterol in the blood” theory has been debunked time and time again.
    • Lastly, I like that they serve as motivators for fast food chains to truly revamp their respective children’s menus if they wish to continue promoting them with toys.
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    In The News: Vitamin Water Called To The Mat

    Less than two hours ago, Reuters reported that The Center for Science in the Public Interest “filed a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola Co, accusing the company of making deceptive health claims about its Vitamin Water beverages.”

    Can’t say I disagree.

    It is precisely Vitamin Water’s cutesy and health-oriented advertising that has resulted in “I don’t drink soda” types buying into what is, essentially, vitamin-fortified sugar water.

    For more information on this beverage, please read this “You Ask/I Answer” post
    from August of 2007.

    Coca Cola, meanwhile, is dismissing this as an attention-seeking move by CSPI, claiming their nutrition facts label tells an accurate tale.

    Okay, but that is not what CSPI is challenging.

    Rather, it is “the company’s claims [that] the drinks reduce the risk of chronic disease and eye disease, promote healthy joints and support immune function” that are being called out as deceptive.

    There is also the issue of the particular names attributed to each flavor (including “defense”, “energy”, and “rescue”).

    Obviously, Vitamin Water depends on those healthy-sounding terms for sales.

    Otherwise, their fruit punch flavor would simply be named “fruit punch” rather than “revive.”

    I strongly support more regulation surrounding health claims on these types of products. What are your thoughts?

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    You Ask, I Answer/In The News: Heart Disease

    In the May 28, 2008 Willamette Week Murmurs column there’s a story about a man doing 25 months in state prison for assault.

    He’s suing Multnomah County and a Philadelphia-based food distributor for serving food he says led to a near-fatal heart fibrillation.

    He claims he was subjected to “criminal inhumanity” in 2007 at the county’s Inverness Jail, where he says food did not comply with the low-fat diet prescribed by his cardiologist.

    Do you think this lawsuit has any merit?

    — David Brown
    Kalispell, MT

    Very coincidental timing! A friend sent me a link to that story 15 minutes before I received your question.

    I was very intrigued and planned on sharing it here.

    I have looked for more details on this case but have been unable to get anything beyond a short paragraph with the most basic information.

    (NOTE: I called the Sheriff’s Office and left a message with Deputy Travis Gullberg, who handles press inquiries. Let’s see if I hear anything!)

    What would help me determine the “merit” of this lawsuit is this man’s cardiac health upon being admitted to prison.

    If he already had heart disease, it is important that he follow a prescribed low-fat diet plan in order to help reverse some of the damage.

    If there is no diagnosis of heart disease in his past, it will certainly be a very hard case to win.

    Of course, there are other legal issues here (i.e.: was the jail notified of his special diet needs by his cardiologist?) but this will be an interesting case to keep an eye on.

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