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McDonald's Wins Fat Fight

A federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of New York children that claimed McDonald's food caused them health problems that included diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

"If consumers know (or reasonably should know) the potential ill health effects of eating at McDonald's, they cannot blame McDonald's if they, nonetheless, choose to satiate their appetite with a surfeit of supersized McDonald's products," U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said in his ruling Wednesday.

"What this ruling tells me is that the legal system isn't nearly ready, if it ever will be, to lump fast food with tobacco when it comes to industries that directly affect the health of consumers," said Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

Plaintiffs' attorney Samuel Hirsch had argued that the high fat, sugar and cholesterol content of McDonald's food is "a very insipid, toxic kind of thing" when ingested regularly by youngsters. According to McDonald's Web site, a Big Mac packs 590 calories and 34 grams of fat while a large serving of french fries weighs in at 540 calories and 26 grams of fat.

Hirsch maintained that while people may generally understand that fast-food burgers and fries are not health food, they do not realize just how bad they can be.

McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker said in a statement Wednesday that "common sense has prevailed. We said from the beginning that this was a frivolous lawsuit."

Hirsch did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Legal analyst Cohen does not foresee a rosy future for such lawsuits.

"I don't think that any of these lawsuits will prevail unless and until there is proof that fast food companies are intentionally and maliciously putting stuff into their food in an effort to make people ill or to addict them to the product. There is no proof of that - no hint of any proof of that - and I think that missing elements makes these sorts of claims very difficult for courts to take seriously," he said.

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