Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

Germans hesitate to join nanny parade

The German government, like others around the world, is being pressed by public health specialists to get into the business of reshaping citizens’ diets and hectoring the populace over its indulgent eating habits. However, reports The Scotsman, there are some distinctive obstacles to this happening, even aside from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fondness for baking a cake at home every weekend:

…the legacy of Germany’s Nazi past is forcing the Bundesregierung, or federal government, to forget TV adverts giving millions advice on avoiding fatty foods and taking exercise.

The government is banned from buying advertising space on TV by the country’s own constitution, which was framed in the wake of the Second World War. Those who drew up the laws remembered how the Nazis were masters of using the cinema for propaganda and feared giving any government the same kind of power. They were also nervous that governments might use advertising leverage to put pressure on broadcasters.

One insider quipped: “The last time we had a non-smoking vegetarian who wanted to tell us what to do, it wasn’t a happy experience.”

(Murdo MacLeod, “German fatties fear the wurst”, The Scotsman, May 13).

But still no rat disclosure requirements?

Not to pile on, but Walter’s post yesterday about the follies of NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden omitted a lesser-known regulatory change enacted by the Board of Health at the same time as the trans-fat rule: a rule requiring chain and fast food restaurants to put calorie counts on their menus or menu boards. (Because many people who buy Big Macs are counting calories.) A rule which managed to annoy the regulation-friendly New York City Council because Frieden did it without bothering to ask the city or state legislature first. A rule which had the added virtue of being completely counterproductive.

Tradeable permits for sinful foods?

Policy wonkery meets health nannyhood in a truly daft proposal from the David-Cameron-led Tories in the UK, a commission of which has deemed cakes and ale (at least in excess) to be “social pollutants”. One searches in vain for the “April Fool’s” giveaway tag. (Patrick Hosking, “Tories plan strict quotas for makers of fatty foods”, Times Online, Jan. 19) (via NRO “The Corner”).

January 4 roundup

Usually it’s Ted who posts these, but I don’t see why he should have all the fun:

  • Latest ADA test-accommodation suit: law school hopeful with attention deficit disorder demands extra time on LSAT [Legal Intelligencer]

  • John Stossel on Fairfax County (Va.) regulations against donating home-cooked food to the homeless, and on the controversy over Arizona’s Heart Attack Grill

  • More odd consequences of HIPAA, the federal medical privacy law [Marin Independent Journal via Kevin MD; more here, here]

  • UK paternalism watch: new ad rules officially label cheese as junk food; breast milk would be, too, if it were covered [Telegraph; Birmingham Post]; schoolgirl arrested on racial charges after asking to study with English speakers [Daily Mail via Boortz]; brothers charged with animal cruelty for letting their dog get too fat [Nobody’s Business]

  • Stanford’s Securities Class Action Clearinghouse reports impressive 38 percent drop in investor lawsuit filings between 2005 and 2006, with backdating options suits not a tidal wave after all [The Recorder/Lattman]

  • Ohio televangelist/faith healer sued by family after allegedly advising her cancer-stricken brother to rely on prayer [FoxNews]

  • Legislators in Alberta, Canada, pass law enabling disabled girl to sue her mom for prenatal injuries; it’s to tap an insurance policy, so it must be okay [The Star]

  • California toughens its law requiring managers to undergo anti-harassment training, trial lawyers could benefit [NLJ]

  • Family land dispute in Sardinia drags on for 46 years in Italian courts; “nothing exceptional” about that, says one lawyer [Telegraph]

  • “For me, conservatism was about realism and reason.” [Heather Mac Donald interviewed about being a secularist]

Nanny-state watch: warning labels on larger-size clothes?

The British Medical Journal, already well established as a source of policy recommendations noxious to individual liberty, is at it again:

Clothes made in larger sizes should carry a tag with an obesity helpline number, health specialists have suggested. Sweets and snacks should not be permitted near checkouts, new roads should not be built unless they include cycle lanes and food likely to make people fat should be taxed, they say in a checklist of what we might “reasonably do” to deal with obesity.

(Nigel Hawkes, “Larger-size clothes should come with warning to lose weight, say experts”, Times Online (UK), Dec. 15).

Atkins diet suit dismissed

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin of Manhattan has dismissed (ruling, PDF) a lawsuit against the Atkins diet people by Jody Gorran, who says after subsisting on pastrami and cheesecake while on the high-fat, low-carb diet he saw his cholesterol spike and underwent an angioplasty. Judge Chin said the hazards of those foodstuffs were well known and that dietary advice, even when accompanied by a commercial motivation, is protected by the First Amendment. (Larry Neumeister, “NY judge finds 1st Amendment protects Atkins diet against lawsuit”, AP/Staten Island Advance, Dec. 11) (via Lattman).

Social hosts and mistletoe II

What I find so amusing about Dahlia Lithwick’s suggestion of a lengthy warning for Christmas parties isn’t so much the warning itself (others have done that funnier, not to mention the real-life examples), but that Lithwick doesn’t recognize that she’s part of the culture that encourages such ludicrous warnings: in 2003, Lithwick pooh-poohed as “extreme” the need for legislative intervention to prevent courts from going after food providers in obesity lawsuits because, after all, Big Food could survive by “posting warnings.”

Pelman v. McDonald’s going forward

The infamous class action litigation seeking to blame McDonald’s for the obesity of putative class members is going forward, having survived a third motion to dismiss. (Mark Hamblett, “N.Y. Judge Rebuffs McDonald’s Motion to Dismiss Deceptive Ad Claims”, New York Law Journal, Sep. 22). Judge Sweet’s opinion will be posted to the AEI Liability Project Documents in the News page later today. I discuss the Pelman case in my Taxonomy of Obesity Litigation paper. The failure of the motion means that, unless McDonald’s can persuade Judge Sweet to bifurcate discovery to resolve class certification issues first, the plaintiffs will be able to impose millions, and perhaps tens of millions, of dollars of litigation expenses on McDonald’s if they dare to defend themselves instead of buying off the class. Copycat litigation is likely.

Ironically, yesterday was the day that the folks at the Bizarro-Overlawyered site chose to attack pending legislation shutting down such ludicrous suits as “pure hype” because there supposedly were no such suits. (The House already passed the bill in a bipartisan 306-120 vote.) It’s a mystery to me why the special interest group of the litigation lobby is devoting so many resources trying to shut down legislation that they claim makes no difference. Earlier at Overlawyered: Apr. 20, 2005; Jan. 27, 2005; Sep. 4, 2003. Cross-posted at Point of Law.