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WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted this week to block frivolous obesity lawsuits against the restaurant and food manufacturing industries.
By a vote of 276 to 139, the House passed H.R. 339, the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, sponsored by Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fl. The National Restaurant Association and the nation's 878,000 restaurants strongly supported the legislation. The bill also received widespread support from others in the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), as well as from tort reform advocates -- the American Tort Reform Association and the Institute for Legal Reform.
"The notion of holding restaurants and food companies legally responsible for choices all of us freely make each day, such as what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat, is absurd. We applaud the House of Representatives for saying today that the trial lawyers and legal system should not be allowed to run amok on small businesses," said
NRA president and c.e.o. Steven C. Anderson.
Anderson said that the American public overwhelmingly agrees that restaurants and food manufacturers should not be held liable for obesity-related health issues. A 2003 Gallup survey found that nearly 90 percent of people oppose holding food companies legally responsible for obesity-related medical conditions. Additionally, the nation's restaurants have long provided and will continue to offer a wide variety of choices and options that meet any individual's dietary needs. Experts agree that all foods can be part of a healthy lifestyle, which can best be attained through balancing energy in and energy out.
"Efforts to file frivolous lawsuits and attempt to bypass the legislative process and regulate through litigation are unscrupulous. Congress and the appropriate regulatory bodies are the proper entities for addressing these matters -- not judges and lawyers," said Lee Culpepper, NRA senior v.p. of government affairs and public policy.
"Frivolous lawsuits do nothing to solve the problem of obesity or convey the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They further the blame game, the notion that someone else is responsible for each of our own actions. We hope that the House vote today sends a strong message that litigation is not the answer," Culpepper added. "Our country needs to focus on education -- better educating and promoting to Americans the importance of personal responsibility, balance, and moderation in diet, and regular physical activity."
A companion bill, the Commonsense Consumption Act, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. A hearing was held on that piece of legislation late last year.