October 25, 2005

Judge wants more info in McDonald’s obesity suit

By Martha Graybow

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The plaintiffs in a closely watched
lawsuit against McDonald's Corp. need to provide more specifics
to back up their claims that the fast-food chain makes children
fat, a U.S. judge has ruled.

The case, which was thrown out of Manhattan federal court
two years ago, is back before U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet
after an appeals court revived it in January.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two youngsters who
accuse the world's biggest restaurant company of using
misleading advertising to lure children into eating fattening,
unhealthy foods.

In his ruling, which was made public on Tuesday, Sweet
granted a motion by McDonald's that the plaintiffs must provide
more details about alleged deceptive advertising practices and
which ads they are complaining about.

The plaintiffs also need to show a connection between their
injuries and eating McDonald's menu items such as Big Macs and
Happy Meals, the judge said.

McDonald's "cannot be expected to respond to the
plaintiffs' allegations if it is not apprised of the alleged
deception," Sweet wrote.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2002, raised fears in the food
industry of a new wave of tobacco-like litigation against
restaurants and manufacturers.

Judge Sweet tossed out the suit twice, but the U.S. Second
Circuit Court of Appeals later reinstated portions of it and
sent it back to Sweet for further proceedings.

Neither McDonald's nor the plaintiffs' lawyer was
immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

McDonald's has previously called the suit "frivolous" and
has said it expects the case will once again be dismissed.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives
overwhelmingly passed a so-called "cheeseburger bill" that
would block similar types of lawsuits against the food
industry. Leading business groups and the White House are
backers of the bill.

Separately on Tuesday, McDonald's said it will start
printing nutritional information on its food packaging, similar
to labels that food companies are required to put on packages
sold in U.S. stores.

McDonald's shares fell 30 cents to $32.82 in afternoon
trade on the New York Stock Exchange.