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House passes 'Cheeseburger Bill'
Food industry protected under proposal to prohibit obesity lawsuits.
October 20, 2005: 8:39 AM EDT
by Evan Glass, CNN Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Americans who blame their obesity on eating too much fast food would be prohibited from suing the food industry for their weight gain if a bill passed Wednesday by the House of Representatives becomes law.

The "Cheeseburger Bill," as it has been nicknamed in Congress, would block civil lawsuits against food manufacturers in federal or state courts by individuals claiming that their health condition was caused by the manufacturers' food.

"As one judge put it, if a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of super-sized McDonald's products is unhealthy and could result in weight gain, it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses," said James Sensenbrenner, chairman of Judiciary Committee.

Two lawsuits have been filed against food makers on the grounds of causing obesity, with one being dismissed and the other still pending. Dismissing the one claim, the presiding judge cited a lack of evidence to connect the eating of fast food with an individual's obesity.

But the legislation does not block all legal action against the food industry. A lawsuit would still be permitted if a person got sick from contaminated food.

Armed with statistics that obesity among children has doubled in the past three decades, with one in three children currently overweight, some members argued that fast food companies need to be held accountable for their harmful products.

"Congress has allowed the need of big corporations before the need of our children," said Rep Bob Filner, D-Calif.

The House bill passed 307-119, but faces an uncertain future in the Senate. A similar bill passed the House during the last Congress, but the Senate never acted on it.

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