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'Food Court' Takes On New Meaning

A man sued four leading fast food chains, claiming he became obese and suffered from other serious health problems from eating their fatty cuisine.

Caesar Barber, 56, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Bronx Supreme Court, naming McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"They said `100 percent beef.' I thought that meant it was good for you," Barber told Newsday. "I thought the food was OK."

"Those people in the advertisements don't really tell you what's in the food," he said. "It's all fat, fat and more fat. Now I'm obese."

Barber, a 5-foot-10-inch maintenance worker who weighs 272 pounds, had heart attacks in 1996 and 1999 and suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He said he ate fast food for decades, believing it was good for him until his doctor cautioned him otherwise.

"The fast food industry has wrecked my life," Barber told the New York Post.

Barber said there is no history of heart disease or diabetes in his family. He said he started eating fast food in the 1950s because it was cheap and efficient.

His lawyer, Samuel Hirsch, said the restaurants should list ingredients on their menus.

"There is direct deception when someone omits telling people food digested is detrimental to their health," Hirsch said.

The four chains have been providing nutritional information, including calorie and fat content, on their meals for many years.

Steven Anderson, chief executive and president of the National Restaurant Association, called Barber's claim "senseless and baseless."

"Obviously the lawsuit is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the recent publicity and news stories on the growing rates of obesity," he said.

With obesity being one of the leading health concerns in the nation, the question becomes whether lawyers can prove a direct link between food, obesity and the risk of heart disease.

The lawsuit also brings to light the issue of whether obesity is a matter of personal responsibility or if fast food chains are also to blame for failure to inform consumers.

Barber and his lawyer are following fast on the heels of a series of tobacco lawsuit wins laying responsibility on tobacco firms for the addictive nature of nicotine and subsequent diagnosis of cancer.

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