The latest deployment in the war on obesity is upon us. SB 1420, sponsored by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, will require California fast-food restaurants to post the amount of calories in every item on their menu boards. SB 1420’s backers believe that when we’re forced to see the numbers, we’ll do the math and change our eating habits.
Two scholars at the University of California, Berkeley, put on their rose-colored glasses and concluded that SB 1420 could cause California to avoid 50 million pounds of extra weight a year. That best-case scenario includes people who eat fast food seven times a week losing 5.4 pounds a year. Earth to Berkeley: Someone who eats at Burger King seven times a week is not going to pay attention to these numbers.
SB 1420 is likely more about junk lawsuits than junk food. The trial lawyers have been busy developing a business strategy to profit from fast food since an infamous New York case five years ago, where a couple of obese girls sued McDonald’s.
The suit failed, but McDonald’s settled, and so have nine other defendants in similar cases. And they have just begun: The Public Health Advocacy Institute’s fifth conference on Public Health, Law and Obesity will meet in Boston this month to discuss our “broken food system” – a term more appropriate to Darfur than America.
I can see the next junk food lawsuit already: a class action against Jack-in-the-Box for selling a Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger that’s 10 calories more than what’s posted on the board.
John Graham is the director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute.