By Rep. Dean Urdahl
A bill I’ve authored to promote personal responsibility, preserve jobs, and protect our food industry and consumers has passed a House committee. You may know it as the “cheeseburger bill.”
This is not a new bill of mine and, in fact, I’ve only spent about an hour working on it this session; I pack my days solid with work pertaining to erasing our $6.2 billion budget shortfall, helping people get back to work, improving our business climate and chairing the Legacy Division. But, since the media recently created a whirlwind when the cheeseburger bill advanced through the Civil Law Committee, the time is right to explain exactly why this legislation is important.
My bill (H.F. 264) is formally called the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act and, specifically, it prevents consumers from filing obesity-related lawsuits with food manufacturers and retailers; this does not ban suits in any other regard, including safety. My bill is about common sense and personal responsibility because, as citizens, we ultimately must be accountable for what we consume. If you eat too many cheeseburgers and get fat, don’t sue food retailers.
That concept may seem simple, but there indeed has been a string of these frivolous lawsuits filed. The cases all have been settled out of court, but even those settlement costs have a series of potential impacts. To name a few: higher prices for consumers, fewer jobs available in food services, shakier liability grounds for business owners and a drier market for farmers. A total of 23 other states already have enacted similar legislation to prevent such a damaging chain reaction from occurring.
To be clear, I condone healthy eating habits and even was named Minnesota Legislator of the Year by the American Heart Association in 2005. Many local folks have grown accustomed to seeing me in area restaurants daily when I’m not at the Capitol, but I keep myself in reasonable condition by paying attention to the nutritional information these restaurants provide and by exercising on the basketball court or softball field.
The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act now advances to a House agricultural committee and its companion is making its way through the Senate.
We’ll see what happens if and when it is sent to the governor for his signature, but the bottom line is this: If you do too much of something for too long, it may have negative impacts. Moderation and is good for diets and state spending alike. On that note, I must close this letter and return to my budget work.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s fifth term in the Legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.