Way back in March of last year, I first saw and discussed "Super Size Me," the Morgan Spurlock documentary about his attempt to canvass the nation and consume nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days. His intent was to show that McDonald's food was unsafe, unhealthy and could be a significant reason why we as a nation are facing obesity as an epidemic.
As a follow-up, in August of 2005, I discussed a suit filed against Wendy's and other fast-food companies which accused them of not disclosing that the manner in which they prepare/cook french fries was dangerous and hazardous to consumers' health. The suit, incidentally, was filed by an Attorney General of the state of California (not, for example, some half-naked guy that lives in a trailer by a pond in Kentucky).
As you may recall (either having originally read it when I wrote it, or by clicking on it now), I was less-than-thrilled when I heard this suit was being brought. Aside from the fact that it's ridiculous to legally challenge a company to force it to change its food preparation technique, there must -- or should -- be some measure of choice left to the consumer. According to CNN, there is yet another legal challenge -- this one brought by a retired doctor and a consumer advocacy group -- this time, challenging KFC to use different cooking oil. My first, and only, response, is: what the hell is wrong with people?
There are a couple of caveats here -- I am sure there are people who, genetically, are predisposed to being obese, so for them, eating a half-chicken might end up sending them over the 400-pound barrier. However, for most people, if you eat two pieces of fried chicken smothered in gravy, a "country" biscuit and some coleslaw, your cholesterol will go to Defcon 2. You don't need textbooks or beakers or lab technicians to know this. Food that is bad for you will affect your health in an adverse way.
Now, understanding that people in society don't know better than to mind their own fucking business, we have Oreo cookies that are made with different ingredients so they don't have trans fats. Imagine, however, that the public pressure to change Oreos resulted in an inferior product, and the choice was, say goodbye to Oreos or let Oreos remain on the market but in an unhealthy form. Keep in mind, by the way, that Oreo cookies have largely remained the same ingredient-wise since before I was a wee lad. Am I glad they changed the recipe to make them healthier? Sure. But had I popped an Oreo post-recipe change and they tasted crappy, would I ever buy another Oreo? Nope.
Sometime in March of this year, Kaia and I met some friends on Second Avenue for karaoke. Next door to the bar in which we met our friends was The Palm, a restaurant chain known as a steakhouse that also happens to sell excellent lobster. In theory, two or more people could walk into a Palm restaurant, sit down, and order a steak, french-fried onion rings (a loaf of 'onion straws'), cottage fries (heavily-fried potato chip-like items), and then top it off with, say, a two-pound lobster, that is served with a half-gallon of warm, liquefied butter. That right there is a nuclear assault on the consumer's health. Yet no dipshit with too much time on his/her hands is assembling the masses and formulating battle plans.
No one is parked outside Balthazar to protest the prodigous use of butter and oil in the escargot and the bar steak; and no one is going after Daniel Bouloud as he ramps up the danger to your health in his $2,500 tasting menu.
The point is, at least on some level, that po' people gotta eat too. Let me rephrase.
People who regularly eat at fast-food joints should be given a choice, or at least the knowledge that what they are eating is dangerous.
The problem is, and what these meddlesome do-gooder parental types don't realize is, THEY ALREADY KNOW. If a person doesn't realize that eating a sauce-laden Big Mac, a pound of sugar-coated french fries and a gallon of sugary Coke is a problem, then they don't need nutrition info, they need a state-appointed guardian.
I'm not suggesting that these ridiculous lawsuits are being brought for profit; I understand the people who have filed these suits believe they are doing the right thing for society. However, unless the fast-food industry is deceptive and duplicitous as has been Big Tobacco, I don't see how we can compare the two, or treat the two in similar fashion. And frankly, while I understand the need to regulate Big Tobacco, I can't see -- nor do I think it sets a good precedent -- for some random seat-belt-mandating pulpit-pounder to try and command a company to alter its recipe because said pulpit-pounder has had some sort of epiphany. It's dangerous, in my opinion, to even permit these types of suits without some sort of penalty.
In the United Kingdom, when a lawsuit is tossed because it has absolutely no merit, the plaintiff is responsible for court costs and ancillary fees. I think that we should consider adoption of this policy as well; technically, it is in place, but I think it should be enforced in a much more strict manner. If I sue McDonalds because I found glass in my Angus McJr. that damaged the lining of my stomach, I think I have a legit reason to sue. Suing McDonald's because I had a psychotic break after Ronald McDonald told me to kill three people in Wyoming is a bit more far-fetched. And suing a company for eating unhealthy, fattening foods -- when no one held a gun to my head, forcing me to eat that food -- is the height of frivolity.
So to any doctor, health group or tree-hugger out there who wants to decide for me what I'm having for lunch (or what size lobster I'm ordering when Kaia and I next hit the Palm), keep your hands off my eats and I'll keep my foot out of your ass.
I think that's a fair compromise.