Said Plaintiffs Should Have Known About Fast Food's Ill Health Effects

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- A federal judge in New York today threw out a lawsuit by several obese children who claimed they became fat as a result of eating McDonald's products.

Judge Robert W. Sweet of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of McDonald's request for summary judgement and tossed out the widely publicized class action lawsuit.

Cannot blame McDonald's
"If consumers know (or reasonably should know) the potential ill health effects of eating at McDonald's, they cannot blame McDonald's if they, nevertheless, choose to satiate their appetite with a surfeit of supersized McDonald's products," Judge Sweet wrote.

The lawsuit claimed that

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McDonald's didn't adequately disclose the ingredients and/or health effects of eating certain of their foods with high levels of cholesterol, fat, salt and sugar, and that the chain described its foods as "nutritious." It also accused McDonald's of gearing some of its marketing toward children to try to induce them to eat foods that cause obesity.

The suit also alleged McDonald's acted negligently in marketing food products that were physically and psychologically addictive.

No deceptive acts
Judge Sweet said the case "did not identify a single instance of deceptive acts" by McDonald's. Plaintiffs had claimed that some ad campaigns suggesting visiting McDonald's every day and a Web site statement that McDonald's "can be part of any balanced diet and lifestyle" were misleading.

McDonald's today praised the court's decision.

"We trusted the court to use its common sense to dismiss this claim. That's exactly what the judge has done," the company said in a statement. "Common sense has prevailed. We said from the beginning that this was a frivolous lawsuit. Today's ruling confirms that fact."

Debate over obesity
While the lawsuit became a punch line on late-night talk shows, it comes at a time when the nation is hotly debating the causes behind a rise in obesity among children and adults. The suit even prompted McDonald's to announce it would switch to a cooking oil with lower cholesterol-inducing fats. Other fast-food chains, including Wendy's International and Burger King corp., stood by their menu variety and new entree salads as providing healthy meal alternatives.

An attorney for plaintiffs did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

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Kate MacArthur contributed to this report.

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