The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act – also known as ‘The Cheeseburger Bill’ – has previously passed the House of Representatives in 2004 and 2005 before stalling in the Senate without a vote both times. In essence, the bill’s backers claim that matters of personal responsibility do not belong in the courts, and if a person eats unhealthy food and gains weight, it is their responsibility and not that of the food industry.
The bill, HF264, reads:
“A producer, grower, manufacturer, packer, distributor, carrier, holder, marketer, or seller of a food or nonalcoholic beverage intended for human consumption, or an association of one or more of such entities, must not be subject to civil liability based on any individual's or group of individuals' purchase or consumption of food or nonalcoholic beverages in cases where liability arises from weight gain, obesity, or a health condition associated with weight gain or obesity and resulting from the individual's or group of individuals' long-term purchase or consumption of a food or nonalcoholic beverage.”
On the other hand, the legislation would not prevent food marketers from being held responsible if weight gain is the result of misleading advertising.
Urdahl says the bill is intended to protect food manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits, such as the 2002 case in which a New Yorker sued McDonald’s for his obesity and diabetes, or the class action case filed against McDonald’s by a Californian woman in December, calling for the company to stop including toys in its Happy Meals for children.
However, critics have argued that it should be up to the courts rather than Congress to decide if a case is frivolous.