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Man claims he was misled over nutritional content of meals

Adapted from the Guardian

If Caesar Barber dreamed of winning fame, he probably didn't think it would be due to his obesity. However, since the 120kg maintenance worker filed a lawsuit against McDonald's, Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King last month - seeking damages for selling him food that made him obese - Barber's 15 minutes of fame are proving as painful as the two heart attacks he has already had.

"Does anyone really believe that Mr Barber was too dumb to know that eating saturated fat was less healthy than having, say, a fruit dish or a chef salad?" said Steve Dasbach, who is the executive director of the Libertarian party. Barber says that he was in the dark about the nutritional content of the fast food he was eating up to five times a week from the 1950s onwards. Incredibly, he didn't didn’t give up burgers and salty fries after he had his first heart attack in 1996. He is now a diabetic with high blood pressure.

In his lawsuit - the first of its kind in the United States - he contends that deceptive advertising misled him about the nutritional value of the food, until a doctor pointed it out. "Those people in the advertisements don't tell you what's in the food," he says. "Now I'm obese. The fast-food industry has ruined my life. They said 100% beef. I thought that meant it was good for you."

Attacks on Barber’s character and perceived IQ became a sport in the US media. Barber wasn't stupid, columnists and radio hosts joked, just out to make money by failing to take responsibility for his diet. More than 75 million Americans eat fast food every day. But who, the journalists asked, doesn't know that too much will make you overweight?

"Mr Barber honestly didn't know what the dangers were when he started eating fast food in the 50s," says his lawyer, Samuel Hirsch. "The fast-food chains made no effort then, and little today, to inform consumers about the dangerously high fat, cholesterol or salt content of their food." Hirsch says that his client, who has now gone into hiding, is not trying to make money but to get the chains to inform customers that their food is guilty of expanding their waistlines.

Barber and his lawyer are following hard on the heels of a series of lawsuit wins over some tobacco companies for the addictive nature of nicotine and subsequent diagnosis of cancer. It actually seems that Hirsh believes that there might be similarities between tobacco and fast food products as he claims that both nicotine and fast food products create a craving.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine applauded the lawsuit. The committee's research coordinator, Brie Turner-McGrivey, says that whether Barber wins or loses, the hype surrounding the case has been good for doctors, spotlighting America's obesity epidemic and the role that fast food plays in it.

One might consider Mr. Barber’s case an act of stupidity or an attempt to make some quick money but Ceasar Barber definitely takes credit for initiating the discussion about whether obesity is a matter of personal responsibility or if fast food chains are also to blame for failure to inform consumers and fighting obesity has become a one of the priorities of American health organizations.