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McDonald's manager wins obesity lawsuit

Brazilian court orders fast-food giant to pay former employee who gained 65 pounds on the job.

By Karen Datko Nov 2, 2010 7:33PM

This post comes from Jon Hood at partner site


McDonald's has lost a high-profile obesity lawsuit, with a Brazilian court ordering the fast-food giant to pay $17,500 to a former manager who says he gained 65 pounds while working at a franchise.

The employee, whose identity was not made public, said he went from about 155 to 231 pounds during his time with the company. The plaintiff said the random presence of "mystery clients" -- who are tasked with visiting franchises and evaluating their food quality, cleanliness and customer service -- made him feel obliged to sample the food every day.


He also scolded McDonald's for offering free lunches to its employees, charging that those meals -- which consisted mostly of hamburgers, french fries and ice cream -- increased his daily caloric intake. Post continues after video.

CSPI will file suit

The suit is further evidence that obesity-related litigation is still going strong, despite criticism that such suits absolve consumers of the responsibility of making healthy choices.


In June, the Center for Science in the Public Interest served McDonald's with notice that it would file suit against the company unless it stopped selling Happy Meals, which CSPI called "unhealthy junk food."

CSPI said McDonald's makes "parents' job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising," and compared it to a "stranger in the playground handing out candy to children."


In a sharply worded response in July, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said that "the public does not support (the) lawsuit," adding that "parents, in particular, strongly believe they have the right and responsibility to decide what's best for their children, not CSPI. It really is that simple."


True to its word, CPSI announced last month that it was proceeding with the suit.


Other lawsuits

In 2005, McDonald's agreed to pay $7 million to the American Heart Association as part of a settlement concerning its use of trans fats in its food. It also agreed to pay $1.5 million for a public advertising campaign telling the public of the dangers posed by those fats.


And in 2008, a judge allowed a class action -- filed by consumers who alleged that McDonald's food made them obese -- to proceed, overturning a lower court's dismissal of the case. That action, Pelman v. McDonald's, alleged that certain McDonald's foods are "substantially less healthy than represented."


The lead plaintiffs in that case, Ashley Pelman and Jazlyn Bradley, both minors, brought suit on behalf of all consumers who bought and ate McDonald's food from franchises in New York. Their suit alleged that the food increased consumers' chances of developing "obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol intake, and/or other detrimental and adverse health effects and/or diseases."


McDonald's is considering whether to appeal the Brazilian ruling, which was issued by Judge Joao Ghisleni Filho in Porto Alegre. In a statement, the company stressed that it "offers a large variety of options and balanced menus to cater (to) the daily dietary needs of its employees."


Perhaps the plaintiff should have spent more time taste-testing the salads.


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