Obesity Legislation More Dangerous Than Lawsuits

Jan 06, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Forget tort reform. If a new report from Levick Strategic Communications is right, food manufacturers, retailers and restaurants, particularly those in Europe, needn’t worry
so much about obesity-related lawsuits. What they have to be concerned about is government legislation.

The report, Obesity as a Media Issue: Public Concerns in the U.S. Prove Contagious Across the Pond, found that the media here and in Europe sees the obesity issue as a
story with legs.

It also found that while initial coverage was over the possibility of lawsuits being brought against members of the food industry, similar to what happened in tobacco, the story
emphasis has shifted on the need for food legislation.

The study examined media coverage in the U.S. and Europe for the period January through May 2004. The research covered a total of 2,355 stories published in U.S. and European
media. The majority of the coverage (59 percent) came from the U.S.

Analysis of the coverage found media support for regulation. This was particularly true in European countries where the government is viewed by its citizenry as the best agent
for instituting change.

Moderator’s Comment: Is legislation or litigation needed if countries are serious about addressing the obesity issue?

Gene Grabowski, vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, said, “While the threat of obesity lawsuits remains a troubling possibility for global
food and beverage companies and restaurants, the real threat is that government regulators in Europe, and in developing countries that emulate Europe’s standards, will impose
restrictions on marketing selected foods to children and even adults.”

“The threat is especially potent when you consider that global food companies are looking toward Latin America and Asia for growth opportunities,” he added.

George Anderson – Moderator

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