Cheeseburger Bill Passes the Housese

The so-called “Cheeseburger bill” was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Oct. 19th. 

The bill’s official name is the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, and it prevents frivolous obesity lawsuits against the manufacturers, distributors or sellers of food or nonalcoholic beverage products.

This is the second time that the Cheeseburger bill has been passed by the House.  It was originally passed in March 2004, but it did not come up for a vote in the Senate.  Both the House of Representatives and the Senate must approve a bill before it can become law.  The bill’s future is again uncertain as the Senate often blocks House-passed measures that cap legal damages or protect particular industries from lawsuits.

The food liability bill passed 306-120 on Wednesday, and proponents hailed it as a significant political victory for President Bush, who has sought to reduce civil suits.  Democrats called the bill a vehicle to hurt trial lawyers and help the multibillion-dollar food industry.

Obesity is an increasing medical problem in the United States, and proponents of the lawsuits have hoped to pressure food manufactures and distributors into providing more prominent health advisory information.  They believe that additional health warnings on products would change consumer behavior.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Ric Keller (R-FL), is a strong advocate of “common sense and personal responsibility”, but Representative Bernard Sanders (I-VT) voted against the measure, saying that it sought to protect large corporations from legitimate consumer lawsuits.

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