Monday, September 29, 2008

Consumers Sue Applebees, Chilis, Macaroni Grill and On the Border for Calorie Fraud

One of the main arguments that restaurant associations use with politicians when trying to dissuade them from supporting bills making menu posted calories mandatory is that it'll cost a fortune to police.

Well, at least in the States (where I'm told there are more lawyers than in the rest of the world combined), perhaps it'll be policed by the people.

Witness the new class action lawsuits being launched against Applebee's, Chili's, On the Border and Macaroni Grill for calorie and nutritional fraud.

The suits state,

"Defendant's actions and practices, including misrepresenting nutritional content of menu items, facilitating the menu inaccuracies, and/or allowing the food to be prepared in a manner which changes the nutritional content without adequate disclosure, is an unfair, unlawful and deceptive business practice in violation of the California Civil Legal Remedies Act, Civil Code section 1750, et seq.; the California Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq.; the California False Advertising Law, Business and Professions Code section 17500, et seq.; and have resulted in the Defendant's unjust enrichment"
I've got to say, I think it's great that someone's standing up for themselves. Certainly the only folks who care about calorie counts are folks trying to lower them and if Big Food has been willful in their deception, they should not only be ashamed of themselves, they should pay.

I've also got to say that the description of the consequences of eating more calories than you'd planned as, "unjust enrichment", is an absolutely delightful use of the English language.

UPDATE: A kind lawyer who reads my blog has let me know that "unjust enrichment" actually refers to the unjust enrichment of the pockets of the restaurant due to the misleading representations of the food.

I like my interpretation better.

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3 comments:

  1. Interesting legal approach, but I wonder if it will actually work. Egregious cases of inaccuracies aside, to what degree can restaurants be held responsible for variations in fat/calories, when they are managing multiple local, regional and national suppliers, for hundreds of products? Where will the legal requirement kick in -- if a dish is proven to be 10% off? 20%?

    While I applaud the suit for its attempt to keep the chains honest, I just have to wonder if the courts will derail efforts elsewhere in the lawsuit-happy U.S. to force restaurants to disclose calories on menus by deciding, now that serious money is on the line, that the logistics are such that many restaurants cannot comply.

    If this suit proceeds, the chains can pressure lawmakers in states/cities that have yet to make menu disclosures mandatory that it could be too costly to do so.

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  2. Anonymous3:32 pm

    While I agree that there has to be truth in advertising(ie accurate calorie counts etc.), what about personal responsibility for one's health. No one is forcing individuals to go to a restaurant and eat unhealthy food. People make those choices on their own. I have an issue with individuals making bad choices and then trying to hold others responsible for the subsequent consequences.

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  3. There may be some truth, yet still, we as people are responsible for what we eat. Going out every once and a while is one thing, but to go to Chili's or Applebees every Friday night? That's when it becomes a problem.

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