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ChocoKitty

Class action suit against junk food companies?

44 posts in this topic

All you people casually talking hypothetically about people getting burned by boiling water or near boiling temp coffee can go stuff it in your hat! I was burned by freshly perked coffee when I was eight years old. I spent about two weeks in the St. Barnabus burn unit with lots of nasty blistery 2nd degree burns on my lap (yes, my lap, with all that implies). Now, I (or my parents) didn't sue my cousin who accidentally spilled it on me, or my aunt & uncle whose home we were in, or the manufacturer of the coffee percolator.

I thought the McDonalds lawsuit was ridiculous. Yes, if the person working for McDonalds intentionally spilled it on her that's one thing. But a when a beverage you expect to be served hot is accidentally spilled, you really can't blame the restaurant for serving it hot, IMO. I feel bad for the lady that got burned. Unlike most of you I really do know how she felt. But come on! And who wants to place a bet that if the coffee was cold she'd park her car and go in the store to complain?!

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Quoting Ron Johnson:  “Junk food is not addictive in the sense that the drug nicotine is. Some people may not be able to control their consumption of junk food, but that is due to their own psychological disorders or impulse control problems.”

First of all, “Nicotine” a drug, is part of Tobacco, and proven to be addictive. The part “……..ine”, another drug we are not aware of may be present in Junk Food, could also be addictive. This particular “part”, or within an additive in so called Junk or Fast Food, may need to be found.

I think it is safe to make the statement, without generalizing, that the majority of obese people are known to consume larger amounts of this junk food, than people who are eating more food either made from scratch of natural products, and even foods cooked in restaurants using natural ingredients. Maybe I am totally wrong, but I also find that obesity is prevalent in minorities and people with lesser education. They also are the same people with most time spend in front of Television. And Television constantly warns of the effects of not properly eating, plus suggesting to exercise. So, is this not educating? But ofcourse for every one of those ads, there are three  “…..food” ads.

What scares me are the word(s) “Additives” on prepared and/or pre-prepared store bought food stuff. The term additive does not say ever what it really is. Could it be that a combination of say two additives, they themselves not being addictive, but in their nature by combination, creating a chemical reaction in our body after consumption, and now become addictive.?  

To quote Steven:  “Perhaps there are food additives that can be found to be addictive. Perhaps there will be child plaintiffs, who will be found to be victims of advertising.”

To paraphrase part of above quote:  “. Some people may not be able to control their consumption of Cigarettes, but that is due to their own psychological disorders or impulse control problems.” Is that an excuse befitting people in the above third paragraph?


Peter

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I am not going to get into a discussion of tobacco litigation, because the thread may start to rival A Balic's biography, but let me make a couple of points and then retire:

1.  The "addictive" properties of nicotine have been widely known for most of the century, and smokers assumed the risk of becoming addictive as well as the risk of smoking-related diseases.

2.  Whatever the whistle blowers say, no-one has been able to identify a method by which the tobacco companies have manipulated nitocine (don't forget the generous libel settlement Philip Morris achieved when 60 Minutes were unable to substantiate that claim).

3.  The tobacco companies have won by far the majority of the cases against them which went to trial.  There are a number of reasons they settled with the States, not the least of which was that they weren't going to gamble that a rogue jury somewhere wouldn't bankcrupt them.

And I don't see Ron's point about how harmful boiling water can be.  If I poured the tea I make at home in my lap, sure it would cause injury - but I always make my tea with boiling water nevertheless - doesn't everyone?

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Ron and Steve -- I'm late to this topic, but I'll throw my 2 cents in.  I'm on Ron's side with the McD's issue -- the company knew they were putting out an unreasonable dangerous product.  That is, people know that boiling water will result in a serious burn.  But reasonable people do not expect that water the heat of coffee, as it is usually purchased, would cause such serious burns through clothing as to require skin grafts.  I spill coffee on my fingers every morning.  Because I do not expect that coffee to be served at an unreasonably high temperature, I do not expect to end up in the hospital.  If someone does knowingly serve me coffee at a temperature above what a reasonable person expects, I think that person should be held accountable.  

Also, kudos to Ron for explaining that "first kill the lawyers" was a pro-lawyer statement, recognizing that lawyers are imperitive to protecting liberty in a society.  

The thought of suing fast-food companies reminds me of an interview I saw of Al Goldstein, the guy from Screw magazine.  Commenting on lawsuits from people who claimed to be addicted to 900-sex lines, he said, "hey, you're fat, I'm fat, should I sue the restaurant for selling me a cheeseburger?  Take a little responsibility for your life."  Always ahead of this time, that Al.

But that said, plaintiff's lawyers are scum.  One of them sued McDonalds over the pricing of the happy meals.  The lawyer noticed that the only difference between the hamburger happy meal and the cheeseburger happy meal was a slice of cheese.  They sued because McDonalds charged $.12 more for the cheeseburger happy meal than a hamburger happy meal, but only $.10 more for a cheeseburger than a hamburger.  The lawyer figured that charging an extra $.02 cents for a slice of cheese in a happy meal discriminated against children and constituted an unfair business practice.  Seriously.

And let's not get talking about going to small claims court over a little smoke at the theatre.

(Edited by Dstone001 at 7:31 pm on Jan. 29, 2002)

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To get away from this for a second: I'm wondering, from an epicurean perspective, what is the ideal serving temperature of coffee? I know the ideal brewing temperature is somewhere between 190 and 205 (F), depending on who you ask, but is there a consensus regarding serving temperature? I thought between 180 and 190 was the standard. What does Starbucks do? What about coffee makers designed for the home? Does anybody have figures? McDonald's, I should note, was serving at around 185.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Home coffee is between 135 and 140 depending on the type of machine.  Liquids at 140 degrees will cause pain but not serious burns to the skin.  Any liquid above 180 degrees will cause third degree burns if in contact with the skin for longer than 2 seconds.  McDonalds served their coffee between 180 and 190 degrees.  No other fast food chain serves coffee at this high temperature.  McDonalds also continued to serve their coffee at this temp depsite knowledge of more than 700 people who had suffered serious burns as a result of coffee spilled on them.

On another note, last night I recalled once when I was a waiter spilling an entire cup of coffee on another waiter as I was turning with the cup in my hand.  She said it hurt, but she never had any blisters or scarring.  That was coffee from one of those commercial machines I believe made by Bunn or something like that.  So it must not have been over 180.

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I've had the misfortune of witnessing a couple of coffee accidents.  One was a waitress (my roommate) who broke a pot of coffee, burning herself.  The other was at a party where a toddler got too close to the buffet table and pulled a party size coffee urn over, splashing himself with hot coffee.  Fortunately, in both cases, the burns were not serious.  They caused reddening of the skin and pain, but that was about all.  The waitress was able to work the rest of her shift, and the baby, although in pain didn't require hospitalization fortunately.  I think the temp of the coffee can make a big difference on how severe the burns can be.

We just got a carafe coffee maker as a free gift from Gevalia.  It makes coffee a lot hotter than our last model, which was a Krupps or Braun.  The cup of coffee I just served myself registered 160 with my instant thermometer, but within about 1 minute was at 150 (still very hot).

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I've not measured the temperature of my coffee as it comes from the machine, but I know the steam produced to foam the milk is in excess of 210 degrees. Shouldn't my antihistamine medicine come with a warning not to operate this machine?

Tommy, I want to let you know your dealer is suing you for defamation of charcater.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Several expert sources I've queried say it's simply not possible to extract coffee effectively at 140 or 150 degrees F, so unless these home machines have cooling devices of which I'm not aware, coffee straight from one of them must be a lot hotter.

I've asked my friend who works at a Starbucks to take some measurements. She has so far ascertained that the milk for a Starbucks espresso-based drink is heated to 160 degrees F unless a customer requests extra hot (and apparently many do) in which case it is heated to 180 degrees F. The espresso in question, which can be served straight or mixed with the hot milk in various ratios, is made with 194 degrees F water and emerges from the machine at around 185 degrees F, at which point it is immediately presented to the customer or combined with the relevant milk (therefore reaching a temperature somewhere in between) and immediately presented to the customer. She's going to double check those latter figures today. Starbucks also takes the absurd step of placing a warning on its coffee cups, something that should not be necessary in a sane world.

Steve Klc, can you speak authoritatively here?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steve, as Kurt Vonnegut asked, what kind of society do we live in when boxes of toothpicks come with instructions?

Warnings are not meant for the reasonable and sane in our society.

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Today I was emailed a list of "actual" warning labels from consumer products.   I have not verified if they actually appear on the products listed.

On a Sear's hairdryer:  ...Do not use while sleeping.

On a bag of Fritos:  ...You could be a winner! No purchase necessary.  Details inside.  (the shoplifter special?)

On a bar of Dial soap:  "Directions: Use like regular soap."

On some Swanson frozen dinners:  "Serving suggestion:

Defrost."

(but, it's "just" a suggestion.)

On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom):  "Do not turn upside  down."  (well...duh, a bit late, huh!)

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding:  "Product will be hot

after heating."  

On packaging for a Rowenta iron:  "Do not iron clothes on body."  

On Boot's Children Cough Medicine:  "Do not drive a car or operate  machinery  after taking this medication."

(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction

accidents if we  could  just get those 5-year-olds with head-colds off those forklifts.)

On Nytol Sleep Aid: "Warning: May cause drowsiness."

(and...I'm taking this because???....)

On most brands of Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only."  (as opposed to...what?)

On a Japanese food processor:  "Not to be used for the other use." > (now, somebody out there, help me on this.  I'm a bit curious.)

On Sainsbury's peanuts:  "Warning: contains nuts."

On an American Airlines packet of nuts:  "Instructions: Open packet, eat  nuts."  

On a child's superman costume:  "Wearing of this garment does not enable  you  to fly."  (I don't blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)

On a Swedish chainsaw:  "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or  genitals."  (Oh my ... was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)

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Quote: from NewYorkTexan on 11:20 am on Jan. 30, 2002

On most brands of Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only."  (as opposed to...what?)

O.k., I'm way off topic now, and I apologize -- but one college football coach once said, "we can't win at home, and we can't win on the road, and I can't think of anywhere else to play."

Sorry.

(Edited by Dstone001 at 3:11 pm on Jan. 30, 2002)

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New York Texan: got one for your collection.

Tag on pillows: "Under penalty of the law, do not remove this label except by consumer"

Can I remove this before I consume the pillow, and if not, what is the penalty. If I consume it, does it need salt?

All fun aside, can we get back to the original post's comments?


Peter

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While the warning labels were  amusing, they actually were relevant to the original topic.  They demonstrate the extremes that companies feel obligated to go to as protection against frivolous lawsuits.  The warning labels often prove to be a weak defense, but the lawyers insist they appear.  Do warning labels ever protect consumers against their own stupidity?

On a different but related topic, One of the results of McDonalds losing the lawsuit is they serve their coffee at a lower temperature.  I am sure there is a lawyer that has or will look to sue McDonalds based on the diminished enjoyment of their beverage which is now served below the optimal temperature.  

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One reason why these companies serve coffee at such a high temperature is that a lot of Americans put large amounts of lowfat or skim milk in it, and still expect the coffee to be hot afterwards.

One woman I knew put about 1/3 cold milk in her cup, and thought the coffee should be held at about boiling, so it would be piping hot for her. I suggested she preheat her milk, and she acted like I was speaking a foreign language.

People like that complain to management that the coffee's not hot enough, and the temp gets turned up. Who needs flavor in the coffee, anyway? When you put skim milk in it, it looks and tastes like dishwater no matter what it started as.

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Quote: from Katherine on 10:51 pm on Jan. 30, 2002

When you put skim milk in it, it looks and tastes like dishwater no matter what it started as.

i disagree.  that's just not true, apparently, or people wouldn't put skim milik in their coffee.  but then again, i don't have very strong feelings about coffee either way, other than that my skim milked filled coffee neither tastes nor looks like dishwater.  

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While the warning labels were  amusing, they actually were relevant to the original topic.  They demonstrate the extremes that companies feel obligated to go to as protection against frivolous lawsuits.  The warning labels often prove to be a weak defense, but the lawyers insist they appear.  Do warning labels ever protect consumers against their own stupidity?

Maybe too far offtopic, but I'm reminded of a toy I bought for my daughter when she was a toddler. Does anyone remember Design Research, a store I would otherwise have fond memories of, on 57th Street. I bought this brightly painted wooden pull toy there. Within a few hours, my daughter managed to pull off a wheel that was attached to the body of the toy with a sharp spiked nail. Luckily I caught her quickly with what had become a lethal weapon in her hand. Rather indignantly I brought the toy back to the shop. The young woman I complained to was eqaully indignant and a lot icier when she told me that their regular clients were more sophisticated and knew how to use this object. I didn't ask if they were sophisticated enough to know not to give toys to babies, or if this pull toy was meant for their adult clientele.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Put another way: To a person who likes their coffee with cream, skim milk will foul a cup of coffee without significantly whitening it.

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Quote: from tommy on 8:28 pm on Jan. 30, 2002
Quote: from Katherine on 10:51 pm on Jan. 30, 2002

When you put skim milk in it, it looks and tastes like dishwater no matter what it started as.

i disagree.  that's just not true, apparently, or people wouldn't put skim milik in their coffee.  but then again, i don't have very strong feelings about coffee either way, other than that my skim milked filled coffee neither tastes nor looks like dishwater.  

Why assume people who put skim milk in their coffee like the taste?  I think the odds are better that they're sacrificing taste for calories.  A silly choice to be sure.

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