Friday, July 25, 2003

Rights and Reason: Lawyers scream about ice cream

The Washington Times reports George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf and and Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sent a warnings to six major ice cream producers this week criticizing ice cream's nutritional value and claiming the producers are in violation of the law.

They sent letters to Baskin-Robbins Inc., Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc., Cold Stone Creamery, the Haagen-Dazs Shoppes Inc., TCBY and Friendly Ice Cream Corp., telling the chains to add healthier alternatives and put nutritional facts on their store menu boards or face potential litigation.

"Your failure to disclose such obviously material information as unusually large calorie and saturated-fat loads may violate state consumer-protection laws and/or your common-law duty to disclose material facts, and may invite lawsuits from concerned consumers, legal-action organizations, or even state officials," read one letter addressed to Haagen-Dazs President David Keil.
Beyond all the obvious free will implications, what I find amusing about this story is that Banzhaf hasn't directed his wrath toward his employer.

When I was an editor of a GW student newspaper, one of the beats I sent reports on was GW's food services committee, which listens to student requests about the quality and variety of the food the university offers. Students would always complain about menu options, and there even was a big battle over whether the university should offer Pepsi instead of Coca-Cola products.

And as most of us probably remember, either though our own experience or the experience of one of our roommates, a lot of people gain weight in college. Ever hear of the "freshman 15"? GW sells a lot of food that Banzhaf and his cronies would decry as evil. Yet I never heard anything about Banzhaf being a critic of GW food services, and he was a guy who would send me a press release if he had an itch up his nose.

So why no suit then against GW and other institutional food providers? Is that a little too close to home for our university-employed activist lawyer friend? I wonder.

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