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NEW YORK -- When the state attorneys general first launched a class-action lawsuit against the tobacco industry, retailers asked what's next, fast food? It took five years to get answer, and it's a resounding yes.
A 5-foot-10-inch, 272-pound man has sued four major fast-food chains, claiming they contributed to his obesity, heart disease and diabetes, his attorney said on Friday.
The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in the Bronx Supreme Court on July 24, is seeking undetermined compensatory damages against McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC Corp. and Burger King, on behalf of 56-year-old maintenance worker Caesar Barber and others.
The lawsuit, which estimates that millions of Americans could be included in the claim, also seeks to have the companies label individual products with fat, salt, cholesterol and other dietary content as well as to warn users of the health effects, according to the Associated Press.
New York attorney Samuel Hirsch, who is representing Barber, said consumers were not getting adequate warning about foods that could cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.
"Fast-food chains failed to disclose the contents in terms of calories, fat grams and sodium. Even when posted, the information is not easily understandable to the public," said Hirsch.
A National Restaurant Association executive said the lawsuit "gives frivolous a bad name."
"This lawsuit, which solely makes restaurants responsible for obesity in America, swallows a simplistic notion," said Steven Anderson, president and CEO of the Washington-based association. "It is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the recent news stories on the growing rates of obesity."
McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker called the claims "ridiculous," saying: "Our menu features choice and variety with lots of options for consumers."
"There are 858,000 restaurants and foodservice outlets in the country serving a variety of food that will meet anyone's specific dietary needs," said the association's Anderson. "The nutritional information usually appears on a chart at the right of the counter and is as easily understood as any nutrition label you would see at the retail store. The important thing to remember is that there is a certain amount of personal responsibility we all have."