In light of the ongoing controversy over fast food lawsuits, the media has called upon ACSH to deliver scientific information regarding obesity and fast food. John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University is the proponent of the fast food lawsuits, which seek to shift the blame for obesity from individuals to restaurants.
Over the past few weeks the media has turned to ACSH to shed some light on the issue. ACSH President Dr. Elizabeth Whelan and Associate Director Jeff Stier, Esq. have both appeared in televised debates with Banzhaf. Dr. Whelan appeared on MSNBC in a debate against Banzhaf on July 2. Banzhaf, who disagrees with the Chamber of Commerce report that fast food does not cause obesity, argues that fast food companies should be blamed for their share of the obesity crisis. Dr. Whelan, citing scientific evidence, explains the long-known underlying cause of obesity that others seem to be ignoring: "We are eating too many calories of all sorts and we don't get enough exercise."
In a CNN International debate (July 9, 2003) with Banzhaf, NYU professor Marion Nestle and Senior Vice President of the National Restaurant Association Kristin Nolt, Stier asserts that "personal responsibility should play a great role" as opposed to blaming others. In response, Nestle complains that the environment has too much influence over America's food choices. Stier reminds consumers about the other side of the equation that is so often forgotten: "We should be spending less time running to the courts and more time running in the park." With all of the focus on food, the public will lose sight of physical activity and its importance to health.
In another appearance, this with Mindy Kursban from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Stier puts it all into perspective for us: "It [the lawsuits] diverts attention from the real issue, which is too many calories, whether it's at a fast food restaurant or whether it's in your home."
Director of Nutrition Dr. Ruth Kava was kept busy after writing a foreword on the Chamber of Commerce report on obesity and fast foods and participating in the panel discussion when it was released to the press. Kava was interviewed for two different radio shows, Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) and Radio America. She was also seen on Fox Network's Sky News in Europe, CNN Financial Network and Mexican TV. ACSH Medical Director Dr. Gilbert Ross participated in a debate against John Banzhaf, also on CBC, regarding the obesity lawsuits.
Obesity is a very serious public health concern and simplistic gimmicks such as fast food lawsuits, the effort to ban Oreo's and fat taxes will do little to address the obesity epidemic. People need to take responsibility for their own health. As Dr. Whelan states in response to a question regarding displaying more nutrition facts in restaurants, "it comes down to individual responsibility and applying knowledge." A greater tax, increase cost, and lawsuits will have no effect if consumers do not understand the science behind it. In addition, lawsuits against fast food restaurants conflate more dangerous and pressing issues such as smoking, which is an addictive habit, unlike food, which supports life.
[See Scientists Reject Lawyer's Claim that "Fast Food" Should Be Labeled "Addictive" and Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of ACSH, debates a junk food "fat tax" on the TODAY show]