Lawyer pushing Pizza Hut, other chains to say their food is addictive

June 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Dallas-based Pizza Hut is one of six quick-service companies expected to receive a certified letter on June 19 demanding it warn customers about the alleged addictive nature of fatty foods.

According to USA Today, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC and Taco Bell will also receive the letter, written by John Banzhaf III, a law professor at George Washington University. Banzhaf, who is best known for suing tobacco companies in liability lawsuits, views the letter as a first step toward filing a lawsuit against the fast-food giants this year.

The report said the letter demands the chains post warning signs that let customers know "a growing body of evidence" indicates fast food "can act on the brain the same way as nicotine or heroin."

Banzhaf based his findings on research published in the February issue of New Scientist magazine suggesting rats that gorge on fat or sugar undergo brain changes associated with addictive drugs.

Banzhaf's letter will arrive on the very day a U.S. House subcommittee hears testimony on a bill that essentially would ban fast-food lawsuits such as the one that he is proposing.

"There should be common sense in the food court, not blaming other people in the legal court," Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., a bill co-sponsor, told USA Today. "Nobody is forced to supersize their fast-food meals."

Regarding the New Scientist study, Steven Grover, health chief at the National Restaurant Association, said it "proves nothing more than rats like cheese. It has nothing to do with addiction."

"It opens up the floodgates for other misguided lawsuits," added Arvin Maskin, an attorney and product liability expert.

"It's not news that fatty foods make you fat," added Chris Brewster, an attorney and former Federal Trade Commission official. "But the allegations that they are addictive are really on the fringe."

"Who are we going to sue next?" asks Grover, "our mothers for preparing (fatty) meals at home?"

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