I'm fat and I'm suing Twinkies.
January 24, 2002 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm fat and I'm suing Twinkies. Art imitating life? Who else saw this past Sunday's episode of The Simpson's? First a bus driver named Otto kidnapping children and now this.
posted by suprfli (31 comments total)
Well, did Hostess manipulate the level of cream filling in Twinkies and lie to the public about it? That'd be the appropriate standard.
posted by rschram at 9:00 PM on January 24, 2002

Maybe if the prices for food was higher, people wouldn't be able to afford to get obese. I'm only half kidding. Maybe.
posted by Fahrenheit at 9:03 PM on January 24, 2002

While I agree with this statement:
"Of that $115 billion, a lot is borne by people who aren't obese. Why should I be forced to subsidize other people's bad habits?"

I disagree that class action is the way to go. Let's just stop that $115 billion of gov't taxing and spending that is not discouraging the dying obese. Insurance companies, hike up your premiums for unhealthy eaters!
posted by hitsman at 9:22 PM on January 24, 2002

How do you narrow it down to one product or even one food group. Eating too much of anything will make you fat. Who do you sue? The one that contributed the most calories? The maker of the food you liked the least?

Man, I'm not litigious enough to live in the States ;-)
posted by Foaf at 9:23 PM on January 24, 2002

The tie-in to "Big Tobacco" the article mentions seemingly innocently is quite true. RJR = Nabisco.

In fact, even before all those execs stood up and swore nicotine was not addictive, the lawyers had already anticipated that food (junk food, high fat content, etc.) would be the next thing for the class-action suits.
posted by sillygit at 9:29 PM on January 24, 2002

This article says:
The idea for [a "Policy Facts" service for insurance policies similar to "Nutrition Facts" on food] was sparked when D'Agostino, while examining the nutrition facts label on a package of Twinkies, thought: "If a clear, easy-to-read label like this can tell you what's in a Twinkie, it ought to be that clear and easy to tell our customers what's in our policies."

Know the facts -> Accept the consequences of your decisions -> Stop government spending -> Lower taxes -> Spend more on twinkies.
posted by hitsman at 9:41 PM on January 24, 2002

Malcom Gladwell, in a New Yorker article on French Fries, makes a convincing argument about suing some fast food establishments for the products they use.

McDonald's and Burger King and Wendy's have switched [from beef tallow] to a product[vegetable oil], without disclosing its risks, that may cost human lives. What is the difference between this and the kind of thing over which consumers sue companies every day?

I don't think a company should bear the responsibly for our bad habits but companies should use the safest and healthiest products available without sacrificing quality.

And I just ate two Hershey's chocolate bars. I feel so dirty.
posted by sexymofo at 9:45 PM on January 24, 2002

Who would get the money?
posted by Mach3avelli at 9:52 PM on January 24, 2002

Lawyers would get a third, then we'd use the rest to set up a fund for disbursement to the states to combat obesity, and they'd stick it into their general funds instead.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:00 PM on January 24, 2002

No MSG is gonna cost us plenty if this gets out of hand.
posted by Eric Lloyd NYC at 10:52 PM on January 24, 2002

shouldn't they just go after the beef industry and the sugar industry? screwit, go after fat people's parents! If they would have taught their children about a balanced diet none of this would have happened! no, wait, if they wouldn't have given birth, sue the insurance company that didn't provide birthcontrol for the fat kid's parents.

Why not just give up this dream of living in a perfect blameless world and get on with reality?

People are fat, they eat too much crap and don't excercise enough. Its not like being fat sneaks up on you, "holy cow, I'm a cow today!" versus "holy smoke, I have lung cancer!" (but then again, does smoking make you feel healthy?). I eat mc d's and lots of really really bad food, and I'm 5'8 @ 150lbs. aka healty (weight wise)

on the other side of the coin, mc d's might have hidden the fact that their food wasn't good for you (nutrition information is posted in the store - sorry, not in picture format for the reading impared).
posted by tomplus2 at 11:55 PM on January 24, 2002

"These companies can't behave like cigarette companies," said Nestle, author of the soon-to-be-published Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. "(Yet) there's lot of people who benefit from people being fat and sick, and the whole setup is designed to make people eat more. … So the response to the food industry should be very similar to what happened with the tobacco companies.

Wasn't that ("... to make people eat more...") the whole idea of capitalism? Is this going to be the end of capitalism? Is this some communist conspiracy?
posted by Berend at 2:59 AM on January 25, 2002

Its not like being fat sneaks up on you, "holy cow, I'm a cow today!" versus "holy smoke, I have lung cancer!"

Actually, that isn't true. Getting fat often happens so slowly that it's easy to stay in denial about it until you're really obese. But lung cancer is something that you are likely to find out about suddenly, even if you knew you were putting yourself at risk.
posted by bingo at 3:49 AM on January 25, 2002

I think people with hereditary disease should be able to sue their parents for giving them that nasty, defective DNA
Oh, and students who fail exams should be able to sue the textbooks' authors who wrote those defective books.
posted by matteo at 6:19 AM on January 25, 2002

And to think there was a time when personal choice and personal responsibility were considered virtues. It is so demeaning and dehumanizing to be in the position of saying "it's not my fault that ___; some bad company stole my free will." We are on the proverbial slippery slope. It started with cigarrettes, has moved to guns, is about to move to food, and is likely to move to the auto industry.

It also bothers me that these class actions are nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to legislate through the courts. This commentary is a few years old, but the author was obviously clairvoyant in anticipating how the tobacco suits would morph into guns and, ultimately, Big Macs. We're allowing a few plaintiffs' lawyers to have an awful lot of power in terms of forcing what should and should not be allowed (some have called them "a defacto fourth branch of government"). That's pretty scary when you consider that in the case of tobacco, 2/3 of Americans felt there should be no liability. And here I thought we were a democracy.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:26 AM on January 25, 2002

Perhaps I am greatly mistaken, but I always thought the one of the hearts of democracy is legal system in which civil and criminal court cases are decided by a group of 12 ordinary citizens who hear both sides of the story in detail. It seems rather inconsistent to benefit from a legal system the guarantees trial by peers, and then complain when those peers, confronted with massive quantities of evidence that the tobacco industry was intentionally lying about the safety of their product, choose to hold the tobacco industry liable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2002

kjs, I don't mind 12 (actually in most civil cases fewer than 12 -- usually 6) random citizens deciding narrow, specific issues. What bothers me is when 12 random citizens are called upon to decide an issue that is of national significance, and whose outcome will affect the choices of millions of people. I'm sorry, I've seen the jury system firsthand, and it gives me nightmares to think that major policy questions are decided by 12 random yokels (of course, I acknowledge that they are not technically making policy decisions, but they are as a practical matter when so much is at stake). It gets worse when you think of how jurors can be influenced by slick attorneys, and realize that they never see the whole picture because the law takes a pretty narrow view of what constitutes admissible "evidence." At least in the act of legislating, any piece of information can be considered.

Also note that the goal is not necessarily to take the case to the jury, but rather to force the particular industry into settling the case on favorable terms, using the fear of the unknown jury verdict as leverage.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:49 AM on January 25, 2002

And to think there was a time when personal choice and personal responsibility were considered virtues.

When, exactly, was this time? As long as there have been lawyers, there have been frivolous lawsuits.

posted by MrMoonPie at 8:37 AM on January 25, 2002

Hershey's Ordered To Pay Obese Americans $135 Billion - the Onion
posted by johnjreeve at 9:00 AM on January 25, 2002

Oh, this is just stupid. Are we responsible for nothing? McDonalds didn't give us nutrition facts! We thought we were eating health food! The big black and white Surgeon General's warnings on my cigarettes didn't tell me graphically enough that smoking kills, I thought it was good for me! If we really, really work at it, we can find someone to blame for every bad thing that happens to us. Why not sue the government for giving states the right to issue liquor licenses, which in turn issued licenses to bars where people go to drink and sometimes leave to drive impaired?

In fact, why don't we just demand that the government wrap us in tissue paper on the day we're born, store us in safe, secure pods constantly filtered with soothing music, implant tubes in our stomachs to feed us nothing but a wholesome mix of nutrients, and protect us from ever having to deal with anything that might be in the slightest bit dangerous? Ah, utopia!
posted by headspace at 9:11 AM on January 25, 2002

watch out, headspace, your "soothing music" might be an "audial nuisance" to me, for which I (and others similarly situated to me) will no doubt be forced to seek recovery on a class basis (particularly if your soothing music is by Kenny G or Yanni).
posted by pardonyou? at 9:17 AM on January 25, 2002

As I much as I think that tobacco execs are slimy dillholes, the minute the government started slapping "Yo, These Can Kill You" warnings on cigarettes is the day consumers yielded their right of ignorance. Past that day, you and only you are responsible for what happens when you smoke.

Nanny State, go away.
posted by owillis at 9:27 AM on January 25, 2002

"Maybe if the prices for food was higher, people wouldn't be able to afford to get obese. I'm only half kidding. Maybe.
posted "

Maybe if fresh fruits and vegetables were cheaper then greasy hamburger and macaroni, thered be less of a problem. There is a class factor to fat. Sugar-laden and high fat foods are often the cheapest. Compare Aldis food to Whole Market Foods in price and health and see what I mean.
posted by Budge at 10:28 AM on January 25, 2002

---I eat mc d's and lots of really really bad food, and I'm 5'8 @ 150lbs. aka healty (weight wise)"

So you have bad food habits but somehow feel superior to those who are fat? because your body happens to burn the crap off? This is part of the problem, this moral judgement and failure to understand fat. By the way I weigh 450lbs. The last time I ate a McDonalds meal was two months ago and it was a grilled McChicken sandwich W/O french frieds. Not all fat people overeat and Im sick of skinny people who overeat and have every bad habit in the world thinking they are better people just because they can get away with it.
posted by Budge at 10:31 AM on January 25, 2002 [1 favorite]

Why not make healthy food cheaper and, more accessible ?
Why am I paying $3.99 for ONE sweet red bell pepper??

Why not put this money towards campaigns and public pressure for the companies to stop pouring corn syrup into everything?

Why not demand decent food instead that isnt crap? I wouldnt eat a Twinkie if you paid me. Its not even FOOD.

Why not fix a society with messed up priorities in general--that depends on processed food and has no leisure time in which to burn it off?
posted by Budge at 10:34 AM on January 25, 2002

I see plenty of thin people that eat candy bars, fast food and junk food. Its not just fat people keeping these places in business. Something for you all to THINK about. Some of the fat discrimination on this board is hard to take.
posted by Budge at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2002

All good points, Budge. But you make sense, therefore you must be wrong.
posted by yesster at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2002

Why not put this money towards campaigns and public pressure for the companies to stop pouring corn syrup into everything?
Maybe people like corn syrup in their foods? If people loved fruits and veggies enough to create the demand, the prices for that would go up. Supply and demand.

Not all fat people overeat
I think it's safe to say a whole lot (probably half the US population) does.

Some of the fat discrimination on this board is hard to take.
How is any of this discrimination? People make choices, they should learn to live with them or change their habits instead of blaming some "evil corporation".
posted by owillis at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2002

Maybe people like corn syrup in their foods?

I think there are two different issues here - short term pleasure and long term fulfillment / happiness. Sometimes we find it difficult to deny ourselves gratification, even knowing full well that indulging ourselves will ultimately make life worse. And we tend to think too much temptation is unfair. A woman who tries to seduce a married man who's away from his wife on business is often considered just as low as the man who doesn't manage to resist.

Junk food companies are producing temptations that they know are bad for us, that we will usually regret eating, and that in some cases produce a spiral, as many people eat junk food when they're depressed, and many people get depressed when they're gaining weight.

I think we're way too litigious a society, and disagreed with the tobacco lawsuits too, but I think the government could still support healthy foods and tax unhealthy ones, in an effort to make the bad foods less tempting. Also, food stamps could be limited to healthier food.
posted by mdn at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2002

Sugar-laden and high fat foods are often the cheapest.

Not if you buy in bulk, and do a lot of cooking. I'm not saying that this is how it ought to be, or that you have the time to cook. I hardly cook at all. But for about a year I was a vegan (about 5 years ago), I made everything from scratch, and once I had bought a lot of utensils I needed, I was amazed at how little money I was spending on food each week.

As far as corn syrup goes, it's in almost everything that's processed as one of the first four ingredients, and I don't think most people are aware of that. Once you stop consuming it, which I did for that same period, strawberries start to taste like candy after a few months. I'm not saying that's practical for everybody, either, but I do think that the presence of corn syrup in everything is basically a soma-like device to prevent the population from realizing that the food they eat really isn't very good.

And it's true in my experience that for fat people, the whole idea of "overeating" is not as simple as it sounds. Many have low blood sugar or actual hypoglycemia, and the way that you deal with that is to eat all day. Of course, you can deal with it by eating carrots all day, but if you grew up answering your hourly sugar cravings with high fructose corn syrup, it's a hard tool to let go of. And when you try, you usually try by eating less often, which makes the cravings worse, and then you binge, and you feel like crap about yourself, and you eat more crap. I'm on medication right now (for ADHD) that effectively kills my hunger, so this is the only time out of the six times I've lost major weight in my life that I feel it may stay off.

As far as the juries go, it's their job to determine whether the defendant broke a specific law already in place. The laws themselves are up to the legislature; if there's anyone in the courtroom who can help the laws change, it's the judge.
posted by bingo at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2002

Some of you younger kids might not remember this, but there was a time in America when people acted stupid for free! It's true, they just gave it away! People acted like utter dopeity dopes and never received a penny in compensation. But then someone figured out that acting stupid could net you a fortune, by, say, pretending like you were honestly and completely unaware that eating fattening foods would cause you to become fat, or claiming that you thought cigarette warnings only applied to other people. Now stupidism accounts for over 13% of America's economy, and this clever exploitation of a previously free resource is exactly the kind of Horatio Alger-esque ingenuity that makes America great.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 4:34 PM on January 25, 2002

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