McDonald's says teenage obesity lawsuit is 'unfair'

NEW YORK - McDonald's has described a lawsuit blaming it for causing obesity in teenagers as 'unfair' and has asked a judge hearing the case to throw the suit out.

The case has been brought by lawyer Samuel Hirsch on behalf of a group of teenagers who ate regularly at two McDonald's restaurants in the Bronx, New York City. It claims that the fast-food chain has deliberately misled the public on the nutritional value of its burgers and fries.

McDonald's has responded to the suit by stating: "Diet is determined by multiple decisions that each person makes every day about what, how often and how much to eat. One type or source of food, much less a particular restaurant, can not determine a person's overall diet."

It added: "Choices regarding diet are limitless (McDonald's itself offers a wide range of choices) and consist of countless factors beyond a visit to McDonald's. These choices are wholly beyond McDonald's control."

McDonald's points out that the US Surgeon General has said that an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, a reduction in physical education programmes in schools and lack of moderation in day-to-day eating habits.

The action seeks unspecified damages, and among the plaintiffs are a 14-year-old girl who is four foot 10 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds, and another who is five foot six and weighs 400 pounds. They have pointed out that in France, McDonald's recommends that children should not eat its burgers more than once a month.

The food industry is coming under fire as the problem of being overweight or obese reaches epidemic proportions in Western countries. With governments facing increased spending on health, one solution proposed has been a "fat tax". Other groups are lobbying governments around the world to ban the advertising of junk food on children's television.

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