Consumers Decry Bill Blocking Suits Over False Food Ads

FDA News
Friday, September 15, 2006

Consumer advocates are telling Senate leaders that legislation aimed at stopping obesity lawsuits against fast-food chains such as McDonalds would in reality pre-empt states from bringing suits against a broad range of foods and dietary supplements.
The groups say S. 908 would pre-empts the states from bringing suits -- even if products are adulterated or misbranded -- unless the plaintiff can show a company knowingly violated the law, a consumer "justifiably" relied on the false ads, and was injured because of the weight gain. The bill is aimed at blocking lawsuits over false advertisements, marketing or labeling of any food or dietary supplement that causes weight gain.
The bill would give FDA discretionary authority to go after companies that deceptively advertise products and adulterate or misbrand foods. States traditionally have regulated this area, the consumer advocates state in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The letter is signed by Public Citizen, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the Alliance for Justice and the Center for Justice and Democracy.

"While proponents of the bill portray a looming legal crisis, the fact is that suits like the McDonald's 'obesity' case do not exist," the letter states. "Public policy in reaction to a single lawsuit rarely produces thoughtful legislation and here unnecessarily jeopardizes the public's health and safety."
"Also distressing, S. 908 changes fundamental civil procedure rules on pleadings and discovery and creates an unreasonably high standard for showing false and deceptive advertising."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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