There has been a proliferation of articles predicting that fast food litigation will be the next Big Tobacco litigation. Even Fortune magazine jumped on the bandwagon, with the cover of its Feb. 3, 2003, issue asking, “Is Fat the Next Tobacco?” However, despite a few well-publicized lawsuits (some of which have had the effect of changing the content of some companies’ food), there appears to be little basis for widespread and panic-inducing predictions. There have been few successes in litigation against Big Food, and most of the successes in obesity-related lawsuits have dealt with mislabeling or consumer fraud, which is unlikely to lead to damages awards akin to those seen in personal injury tobacco litigation.

Tobacco companies and fast food restaurants are not treated the same way by the courts, and such disparate treatment is likely to continue. Attempts to use tobacco litigation as a model for fast food litigation have generally failed and will likely continue to fail in the future.

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