“RALEIGH, N.C. — Cities and counties would not be able to ban the sale of sugary drinks under a bill that passed the House Judiciary A Committee late Wednesday.
The measure would also bar lawsuits against food manufacturers and producers based on claims that a product led to weight gain or obesity.
“Has a lawsuit of this kind ever been filed in North Carolina?” asked Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake. Bill sponsor Rep. Brian Brown, R-Pitt, said he couldn’t speak to suits in North Carolina. “They have been filed nationwide,” he said. “This is a law that will be helpful to restrict those types of frivolous lawsuits in the future and really drive home the personal accountability aspects of North Carolinas business-friendly lifestyle.”…The restriction on cities has been informally dubbed the “Bloomberg Bill,” a reference to the New York mayor who led the push to restrict the sale of large-sized sugary beverages there.
The measure passed committee 8-5. It next goes to the House floor.”
Not that consumer lawsuits claiming foods have led to weight gain or obesity have had much success in courts in the past, but this bill would bar plaintiffs from bringing these kinds of suits altogether.
As anyone who has read Salt Sugar Fat (or read the extended excerpt that the NYT published back in February) knows, while there is certainly a personal responsibility component to individual health, processed and fast food companies have worked hard to make their products as successful as they are by approaching taste, texture, ingredients, and marketing with scientific exactitude (see this earlier post for an example).
Saying that consumers are totally empowered to eat whatever and however they want in our super-saturated food landscape ignores the influence wielded by the millions of dollars that go into the marketing, research and development of, for example, the perfect potato chip. As Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat, has said in interviews (like this one), when you start to learn about what goes into the making of processed foods, Lay’s famous slogan, Betcha can’t eat just one “starts sounding less like a lighthearted dare–and more like a kind of promise. The food industry really is betting on its ability to override the natural checks that keep us from overeating.”
Until the FDA wakes up from its prolonged nap and starts regulating the food industry on behalf of consumers, consumer lawsuits remain an important tool for keeping food manufacturers accountable and in check, which is what makes this proposed bill so troublesome.
This North Carolina bill would also prevent cities and counties from banning the sale of sugary drinks à la Bloomberg. As I said before when Mississippi passed their “Anti-Bloomberg Bill” in March, I don’t really understand how using state legislation to ban cities and counties from managing public health at the local level is an effective way of taking a stance against an overreaching nanny government, but hey, you do you North Carolina.
By the way, in 2012 Mississippi ranked as the second most obese states in the union, and North Carolina was one of only three states to experience an increase in obesity rate (along with New Jersey and Georgia). So NC and MS, if it does just come down to personal responsibility, it might be time to sit down and have a talk with your constituents.