GO TO SOURCE
USA, June 13, 2002: Fearing they may be held responsible for the nation's expanding waistline, U.S. food and beverage makers are going on the defensive with obesity. Some packaged-food companies are contemplating advertisements that would discourage consumers from overeating their products. A handful are giving exercise equipment to schools and expanding the health-and-wellness information on their Web sites. Others are mulling legal issues in case they are accused in lawsuits of promoting a growing national health crisis. In December, a surgeon General's report warned that obesity rates in the U.S. had reached epidemic levels and called for a "national plan of action." Last month, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the powerful food-trade group, urged a congressional panel not to blame individual foods as the cause of America's weight gain. Recently a handful of lawsuits have accused food companies of deceptive marketing. Sued for billing its french fries as vegetarian, even though they are made with a beef flavoring, McDonald's Corp., said it would donate $10 million to Hindu groups and others in the U.S. as a partial settlement. A similar complaint was filed against Pizza Hut, alleging that the company concealed the use of beef products in its "vegetarian" pizzas. While the current litigation mainly targets companies for allegedly misleading claims, not for selling fattening foods, some legal experts see the cases as a portent for future obesity suits.