Big Food vs. Big Tobacco

http://firstperson.oxfamamerica.org/2013/03/10-everyday-food-brands-and-the-few-giant-companies-that-own-them/There is a recent upsurge in activism against the food industry. Last week food activists filed a lawsuit that intends to hold the big food companies accountable for the upsurge in obesity related health costs. Private litigation firms like the Valorem Law Group recently approached 16 state attorneys general in the hopes of taking on the case against the giant food companies. The goal is “to try and recover a portion of their growing obesity-related Medicaid bills from food companies.” They hope the high profile litigation case will have an impact much like the big tobacco lawsuits did that characterized the 1990s. “Litigation by state attorneys general against food companies to recover billions in obesity-related health care costs would bear out like the case against the tobacco industry that leveraged a $246 billion settlement and big policy changes in the late 1990s.” Although the tobacco-food comparison has brought a great deal of attention to the issue, some experts fear the case will fail to materialize. “Food is not tobacco…There is no ‘smoking gun’ showing that food companies made their products addictive at the expense of public health. The case simply isn’t there,” noted attorney Bruce Silverglade. What differs between the lawsuit today and the ones against Big Tobacco in the ’90s is lack of evidence. During the tobacco litigation cases, attorneys had hard evidence that the tobacco companies purposefully hid the dangers/harmful effects of smoking. “That has simply not occurred here,” noted Silverglade. “[Former FDA Commissioner] Dr. David Kessler and others theorize that large food companies manipulate ingredients, but do not have hard proof. Food companies adjust sugar, salt and fat content for a variety of reasons including taste, functionality and cost.” Aside from the true purpose of the case, some experts believe that Valorem is upsetting the status quo and charting new territory. “Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov, partner at Steptoe & Johnson and an expert on tort litigation, believes the idea Valorem is pushing ‘is a concern’ among industry attorneys, in part because it could open up food companies to even more litigation.” Firms like Valorem stand to profit immensely from a high uptake in litigation cases. While it is unclear as to whether the case will hold in court, the comparisons to Big Tobacco has certainly raised awareness towards the issue.

 

Sources: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/big-food-tobacco-style-suit-wont-work-103547.html

http://firstperson.oxfamamerica.org/2013/03/10-everyday-food-brands-and-the-few-giant-companies-that-own-them/