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MN Won’t Prevent Obese Consumer Lawsuits

Minnesota’s “Cheeseburger Bill,” which would have prevented obese consumers from suing food companies for causing them to gain weight, is officially toast.

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The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act was vetoed Friday by Governor Mark Dayton, who said the law granted too much leeway to manufacturers. 

The act, introduced by Rep. Dean Urdahl, was intended to make consumers accountable for their nutritional choices and absolve food-makers of blame for health problems arising from eating too many fat- or sugar-loaded foods. 

It states that civil action may not be brought against a food producer unless the company commits a “knowing and willful” violation of regulations. The act would have placed the full weight of blame for obesity on the shoulders of individuals, as long as the food they ate was produced, labeled and marketed in accordance with state code.

“That requirement of being ‘knowing and willful’ creates too broad an exemption from liability [for companies], according to legal experts with whom I consulted,” Dayton said in his veto letter.

It was this wording, Dayton said, that led him to strike down the proposal. 

The suggestion to shift responsibility for consumption away from manufacturers started as a national measure in Congress in 2001, but was eventually rejected by the Senate after clearing the House. It has been considered on a state-by-state basis since then. 

Urdahl introduced the bill in Minnesota in 2004, that it would help cut down on frivolous lawsuits.

But Minnesota won’t be joining the list of states whose residents can’t sue fast food companies when they put on extra pounds. 

“I support the bill’s expressed intent to hold individuals responsible for their own dietary choices,” Dayton said. But Dayton, a Democrat in a state where Republicans have a majority in the House and Senate, said he refused to sign a bill whose language did not allow for support from both ends of the political spectrum.

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