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McDonald's, Wendy's win false advertising suit

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Wendy's and McDonald's have emerged victorious from a lawsuit that accused the fast food chains of false advertising.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the two companies accusing them of selling smaller hamburgers than advertised and alleging the food didn't look as appetizing in person as pictured on their websites.

The plaintiff's complaint in the 2022 lawsuit accused Wendy's and McDonald's of using undercooked patties in ads because "fully cooked burgers tend to shrink and look less appetizing" and that the companies' ads harm customers because "they are receiving food that is much lower in value than what is being promised."

US District Judge Hector Gonzalez ruled that Wendy's and McDonald's food images "are no different than other companies' use of visually appealing images to foster positive associations with their products." He also said that disclaimers listed on the chains' websites were "prominent" and gave "objective information about the weight and caloric content of those meals."

Major fast food chains, including Burger King, Arby's and Taco Bell, have all been targets lately for lawsuits that allege they're misrepresenting food in their marketing. The explosion has been largely driven by the efforts of a handful of lawyers arguing that food in ads appears more bountiful than what customers actually get.

"We saw a record number of food litigation lawsuits filed from 2020 to 2023, with hundreds of new suits every year," said Tommy Tobin, a lawyer at Perkins Coie and a lecturer at UCLA School of Law. "Food litigation is a fast-growing area of law," he added.

In response, the fast food chains deny the accusations. Burger King, for example, said about a similar lawsuit that "reasonable consumers viewing food advertising know" that food in ads "has been styled to make it look as appetizing as possible."

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