Ky. senator proposes bill preventing obesity lawsuits

July 17, 2003

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has introduced a bill to protect restaurant and food companies from potential obesity-related lawsuits.

According to the Courier-Journal, McConnell's bill would prohibit claims based on an alleged injury related to obesity or weight gain, in state or federal court, against a lawful food manufacturer or seller.

"What you put in your mouth is a choice you make," McConnell said in a press conference. "What we're getting at here is people trying to blame their own poor choices on someone else. You shouldn't be able to sue someone else because of your own eating habits."

Florida Republican Rep. Ric Keller has introduced a similar bill, called the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act (H.R. 339), to the U.S. House of Representatives (see related article Stop frivolous obesity lawsuits before they start).

The C-J report showed McConnell received more than $200,000 in campaign contributions from food and beverage-related companies, among them the National Restaurant Association ($5,000), McDonald's Corp. ($2,000) and Yum! Brands Inc. ($3,000).

Those donations led some to accuse McConnell of merely rushing to his supporters' aid.

"It's an industry-sponsored bailout bill," Mindy Kursban, chief staff attorney for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, told the C-J. "It is very premature, given that evidence is just starting to come out regarding the addictive qualities of food."

The National Food Processors Association is backing McConnell's bill calling it a "strategic and needed response" to the threat of such lawsuits.

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