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ID Report Readers Forum:Foodservice Industry Favors House Decision

We asked our readers to comment on the anti-obesity lawsuit law that was adopted by the House of Representatives, news of which appeared in the "Wellness Watch" column in the March 12 edition of ID Report. Here's what you had to say:

I applaud the decision. American consumers need to take personal responsibility for their own actions.
Bill Barulich
President, BiRite Foodservice Distributors, Inc.
Brisbane, CA

I think it is great that our industry will not have to waste a great deal of time money and resources fighting frivolous lawsuits. No one except lawyers make out in those situations. The only downside I see is that it would take the pressure off our industry to seriously address the obesity problem. I think the threat of legal issues shook the industry by the roots and focused on looking at what we are offering consumers. Hopefully the effort to offer consumers healthier options will not lose momentum.
I think that it is what more and more consumers will be demanding as awareness increases. The Atkins and South Beach diets have created a high demand for low-carb menu alternatives. The book is still open on the actual long-term health consequences of these diets so they may fade like many other diets. Eating fewer calories more then likely will be the long-term approach. Our challenge in the eating-away-from-home industry is to satisfy taste without high-calorie content. More guiltless menu offerings, I think, will be in high demand.
Being responsible business people we should look to satisfy demand and at the same time look out for the best interests of our consumers. More and more of our consumers will be watching their calories, and we need to help them, not be forced into it.
John Martin
President, Martin Bros. Distributing Co., Inc.
Cedar Falls, IA

I personally think that it is a good solution to what could become a runaway issue. The "tobacco attorneys," who made fortunes on the tobacco lawsuits have repeatedly stated that they have plans to go after the food manufacturers and restaurant chain companies to try to fatten their coffers with legal judgments against food purveyors. This is a wrong approach, driven in particular, in my view, by legal greed.
The restaurant industry employs over 12 million people and is a maze of small, medium, and large businesses. Without protections that this law provides, there could be multiple class action suits against food suppliers and foodservice operators that would be distracting, draining of resources and assets, and a deterrent for others to enter the foodservice industry. While some argue that a certain class of industry should not be so protected by laws from the legal due process, the availability of food at a reasonable cost should be protected from the greedy attorneys. For all of us, who depend on our livelihood by supplying the foodservice industry, I think that this legislation against frivolous lawsuits is a must. If the lawyers are allowed to pursue their strategies against food, there will be higher food costs, less choice and availability, and fewer people who will want to work in the food industry.
Ben Snyder
Vice President, Marketing Services
ConAgra Foodservice
Omaha, NE

The world is full of temptations, including food and drink, that we must individually monitor and control as they relate to consumption. Food is much different from cigarettes in that even one cigarette is bad for you while food and drink, if consumed within moderation is fine--in fact essential for human existence. The action in Congress, although it is too bad that we, as taxpayers must pay for attention given to such trivial lawsuits, was certainly justified. Let's start to have common sense play a more important role rather than lawyers and greedy individuals finding new ways to support themselves.
Tom O'Connell
President, Marketing Concepts, Inc.
Cross Plains, WI

As you can imagine, I am an American free enterprise guy, and as such I believe that people control their own destinies. I think less government the better, but by the same token it is dumb to allow consumers to sue restaurants for making them fat, when consumers would not have to eat the food if they didn't want to do so. Therefore, in this instance I would agree that Congress should control such lawsuits.
Don J. Hindman
Chairman, Clark Foodservice, Inc.
Elk Grove Village, IL

I am thrilled to read about the hopeful passage of some type of tort reform on obesity. It is about time that our lawmakers woke up to who is responsible for their own actions in this country. It can't pass fast enough for me.
David Ginsberg
President, Ginsberg's, Inc.
Hudson, NY

I favor the decision of the House but the Senate version will be tougher.
Bob Planck
President, Independent Marketing Alliance
Houston

Given the litigation frenzy the Congressional action is appropriate. However, restaurants and distributors need to do a better job of educating their customers on healthy alternatives.
Stephen Horowitz
Stephen Horowitz & Associates, Inc.
Beverly Hills, CA

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