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Obesity lawsuits Re “exploiting for Profit” [ NLJ, Aug. 28]: The claim by James Copland and Sherman Joyce that “the ‘I’m-fat-and-fast-food-companies-are-to-blame’ lawsuits haven’t achieved much traction” is bizarre, since no fewer than seven fat lawsuits have already been successful, food companies have paid out about $30 million to settle them, the National Restaurant Association considers obtaining immunity from such suits a top legislative priority, virtually all media reports credit fat lawsuits as a major factor in forcing the food industry to make significant changes aimed at reducing obesity, and a very recent fat lawsuit forced major bottlers to virtually ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in schools. The class action accusing McDonald’s Corp. of contributing to the obesity of minors-which inspired a major movie-has been upheld by four out of four judges, including a unanimous 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, and the trial judge has just refused to grant McDonald’s second motion to dismiss. The suit was a major factor in pressuring McDonald’s to ban supersizing, to reformulate its Chicken McNuggets (which a judge had termed a “McFrankenstein creation”), to more widely report the fat and calories in its offerings, to alter its advertising and to make other important changes-as other fast food companies are also doing. Considering that smoker lawsuits against tobacco companies-which I also helped to inspire-took more than 30 years before we began to win, legal action will probably prove to be at least as effective against obesity as it was against tobacco. John F. Banzhaf III Washington The writer is professor of public interest law at The George Washington University Law School.

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