business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we had a story about the likelihood that fast food chains would be sued over the obesity issue, and we suggested that "while the fast food chains don't want to be seen as knuckling under, maybe they should just make their food less fatty and more nutritious..."

MNB user Alan Warren disagreed with our comment.

(It) seems out of step in two ways: 1) Fast food operators, being a prime example of free enterprise in this country, should be allowed to produce foods that they determine their customers want, and, 2) "Fattier foods" not only taste better, there is growing evidence that fat in itself is not the real culprit in obesity. The high intake of carbohydrates (Atkins Diet principle) is the villain.

Should fast food operators and other restaurants be pressured by other activist groups and/or other "self-appointed food police" not to carry these other "political incorrect" foods?

    • Fresh meat, because of hormone injections, animal rights, environmental grazing concerns, E.coli and BSE fears, factory farming, manure run-off into rivers and streams, etc.

    • Seafood, because of trace amounts of mercury, over-fishing concerns and dubious claims of endangered species , farm raised species and their purported environmental impact, color additives in salmon feed, etc.

    • Alcohol, because of purported health issues, drunk drivers, impaired
    judgment, etc.

    • Soft drinks, because of obesity concerns, negative effect of bone
    density in children, etc.

    • Etc., etc., etc., You get the picture!

Let's not cave in to these activist groups whose agenda and motive is often quite different than stated. This is America, land of the free, and of freedom in choice!

We agree that not all motives are pure, and would point out that not all nutritional concerns are created equal.

We're also unwilling to paint all "activist groups" with the same brush. Sometimes activists are specious, but sometimes they can alert us to issues and concerns that we wouldn't know about otherwise. The hard part is knowing which is which.

But we're a child of the late sixties and early seventies, once had hair down to our shoulders, and remember when activism was a noble thing. And we try never to forget that.

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

Come on...What is next? Someone call Breyers and tell them that their Ice Cream clogs arteries and causes obesity. My wife is a self proclaimed chocoholic...sounds like a million dollar settlement to me- get my lawyer on the phone so I can sue the Hershey company.

There are a variety of healthy choices available to all consumers. In the end, you are responsible for the food you consume. Do you really want your choices to be dictated by the threat of being sued? To hit closer to home for many of your readers, lets take a look at all of the products sold in grocery stores that people use that are not part of a healthy regimen. We just removed most frozen convenience foods, a big chunk of the deli department, the soda aisle, beer and wine, the chip aisle, red meat, all fried foods, the entire bakery (for all you Atkins addicts), the cookie aisle, non organically grown get the picture.

It is time to stop the insanity!

We don't disagree. The question we raised was whether we're willing to let Congress pass a law that prevents such lawsuits from being filed. As distasteful as these suits may be, doesn't freedom of choice also include the freedom to sue? Isn't that what the legal system is for?

MNB user Al Kober also weighed in on the story:

This is utterly ridiculous. Life is the living out the consequences of our choices" or "We are the choices we make" It is not the fault of the fast foods restaurants if all they are doing is providing what the consuming public wants. Now I know this can be taken to extremes such as drugs, which have a much greater impact on the general public, but fat people? Who do they impact other than their own personal self esteem?

Well, there is that little matter of $12 billion a year in obesity-related health costs…

In a related story, we reported yesterday that a number of major employers are starting an anti-obesity program. To which MNB user Richard Lowe responded:

Pepsi and General Mills speaking out of both sides of their mouths. How much do they spend on advertising to promote their unhealthy products loaded with sugar and all the other nasty things we should stay away from? It's the starches and unfavorable carbs that send your blood sugar on a roller coaster. Foods like rice, potatoes, cereal and foods made with white flour and sugar can have adverse effects on the body.

Responding to our story about the growth of dollar stores, one MNB user wrote:

While reading this article, I recall a recent conversation with an aunt of mine. She mentioned that she "discovered" that she can shop a Deals 99¢ Store and save on canned goods, boxed items, etc. and then spend a little more on "gourmet" items at an upscale supermarket. (Dorothy Lane) When I first introduced her to the Dorothy Lane Store she expressed that "the prices were so high." Now she says she feels that she can "treat herself" without guilt because she has saved on the other items.

This being the case of many, I think, may really hurt the mainstream supermarkets as more consumers discover the same. The mainstream supermarket will have to make some dramatic changes to the way they do business in order to recapture this new type of consumer.

We've been arguing for some time that dramatic changes are long overdue in the supermarket industry. So we agree.

And we got yet another email about the coming Special K women's line of clothing:

So much goes back to branding. Ask shoppers, "What's a 'Special K'?" and they're bound to answer back that "it's a cereal" (if Kellogg's is lucky, the shopper will also remember the "low fat" message)

Now consumers will be asked to think of 'Special K' as not only a cereal, but also a shirt? Shorts? A stylish sport water bottle perhaps? There are already zillions of these products out there whose name stands for "clothes" to the consumer so I'm skeptical that Kellogg's will see much success from this. Fortunately, Kellogg's has to cash to blow on the mistake.

And finally, we got the following email in response to yesterday's story about Caribou Coffee's plans for expansion:

Personally, I wish Caribou luck on expansion plans. I have visited their stores in Minnesota and Illinois, had great customer service experiences, and I prefer their coffee to Starbucks.

It will be interesting to see if their plans for franchising pan out. I can picture exactly where I would put a franchise in the Cincinnati suburbs right now.

P.S. I like it when you’re in Europe. We get your column earlier here.

We'll tell Mrs. Content Guy that…it sounds like as good a reason as any to move MorningNewsBeat World Headquarters to Europe.

Anyone want to rent us a house or flat cheap?
KC's View: