McDonald's just settled a $12 million lawsuit and apologized for wrongly describing its French fries as vegetarian. A similar lawsuit was filed against Pizza Hut for allegedly using beef fat in its Veggie Lovers' Pizza.
Another class action law suit claims that the makers of the corn and rice puff snack food "Pirates' Booty" under-represented its fat content by more than 340 percent.
A Hard Sell
But Barber's lawsuit is the first known legal action to claim that the fast food industry has contributed knowingly to the problem of obesity in America.
"This is no doubt just the first of many lawsuits holding the food industry at least partially to blame for America's diet-related epidemics," Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine president and nutrition researcher Neal D. Barnard said in a statement.
Even Banzhaf, who has led the charge against the food industry so far, realizes the high hurdle he and plaintiffs such as Barber face in convincing a jury, and the general public, that fat is the fault of corporate America.
"We know from the tobacco litigation that initial suits have real difficulties because the public has real problems accepting new ideas and new concepts," he said. "It took us many years to get us to the point of educating juries about tobacco, so now they are. [Barber's suit] has a great deal of potential."
For its part, McDonald's released a statement calling Barber's lawsuit frivolous.
"Common sense tells you that it makes no sense. McDonald's serves quality food. Our menu features choice and variety with lots of options for consumers," reads the statement.
Comprehensive nutritional information is available at the fast food restaurants and on the company's Web site, the statement read.