Dorothy Crenshaw April 10, 2009 | 12:10:25

The Label Made Me Do It

As someone who’s spent years working on behalf of food and health brands, I understand the critical need for solid communication about the nutritional value – or lack of it – in food products, particularly convenience or fast foods. But, when I read about lawsuits against food companies filling up the court dockets, as reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, I get concerned.
Not about the calories in my Twizzlers. I’m more upset about the suits choking the system. I actually think people have a responsibility to educate themselves about health and nutrition. And if they choose to overindulge, then that’s their choice. Radical, right?
This isn’t to say that deceptive labeling, marketing, or inappropriate advertising targeted to special audiences, like kids, should be tolerated. It shouldn’t, and shoppers can respond pretty powerfully, but not buying such products.
But, my background  makes me appreciate the other side of the argument, and the occasional absurdities that can result. Several years ago, I represented Weight Watchers, by all accounts the gold standard of sensible, non-faddist weight loss, in an action brought by a Congressman that led to an FTC investigation about misleading marketing practices. An example of such “deception” was that Weight Watchers’ ads and marketing materials failed to clearly state that if you stopped following the WW program, you’d probably gain back the weight you lost. 
I’m serious – your tax dollars at work.  As in this case, so often the problem is politics, or political grandstanding. The irony, is few of the changes that result instill truly healthful habits. That, too, has to come from personal responsibility. …like my vow to kick the Twizzlers habit.
Fat chance.