Caesar Barber has a bone to pick with the fast food industry. Actually, Barber already picked his bones clean at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It might be better to say Caesar Barber has a beef with the fast food industry, but as his five-foot-ten 272 pound frame jiggles, he’s already had plenty of beef.

Paul Wong

His girthy midsection and poor health has led Barber to file a class action suit (naming Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and KFC as defendants) against the fast food nation. This man and a host of other fast food aficionados are set to launch an assault on the okay-food-quickly powers that be for more than a chunk of change.

Why should anyone care if a man ate fast food, had a pair of heart attacks (circa 1996 & 1999) and got fat? You’d think the first heart attack in 1996 would be a good lifestyle clue, let alone the second batch of blockage in 1999. The 56-year-old Barber, a maintenance worker, told MSNBC, “I didn’t realize how bad it was for me until 1999.” Maybe he should sue the doctor who didn’t tell him about his burgeoning belly in 1996 when he had his first heart attack.

Come on. Does anyone feel bad when a college co-ed drinks too much at the bar, goes home, pukes and falls asleep? No. Barber said he would eat at fast food restaurants “four or five” times a week. The man ate like a friggin hobbit. It certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that in most cases, if something tastes good, it is probably bad for you.

Barber’s lawyer Samuel Hirsch likens this case to the suits against the cigarette industry. Hirsch says that consumers are not adequately warned about foods that could cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Hirsch believes that the level of deception deployed by the fast food industry is on par with the tobacco giants. He maintains that consumers are not being told all of the facts about the health content, or lack thereof, in fast food.

Is this big news? I thought everyone knew that fast food wasn’t good for you. Was this some big secret? Those white menus with the nutritional information have been deterring me from the Double Whopper for years now. Why couldn’t he read those menus and realize that the higher the numbers are in most categories, the worse the food is for you?

Maybe the four horsemen of the expanding waistline apocalypse should fire back with a counter-suit. McDonald’s can lower the arches and Burger King should pull the plug on Kid Vid, and the giants should team-up, enlist KFC and Wendy’s to the fold and sue the fat people clogging their restaurants. Yeah, maybe obese people are taking business away from the fast food industry. Perhaps prospective patrons peruse the restaurant-mosphere and see a bunch of cage-ball-sized people spilling out of swivel chairs, and instead of going in for a Western Bacon cheeseburger the nearest customer heads back out the door and off to Subway for an Under Six Grams of Fat sandwich. Maybe the hondo-hoss monsters scarfing down their fifth meal of the day courtesy of Mickey-D’s (right Mr. Barber?) are creating a loss at the business end because patrons are scared off by looking into the windows and seeing the flabby future threatening the joints of the tile floor.

There is a greater concern here than this one man’s suit in the name of the chubby everywhere. It returns to the American value that life should be fair. Instead of filing a lawsuit against the four fast food chains, perhaps Barber should sue his parents for providing him with the genes to fatten him up and his slow metabolism. Or Barber should sue his mouth and appetite, taking them to court and finding them responsible for his obesity.

Caesar Barber and the other butterballs involved in this legal action are overlooking what most of the world’s population continue to glance over. That life is not fair. It’s not fair that Caesar Barber loves fast food and loved enough of it that his body mass index boomed up over 39, deep into the obese portion of the scale. It’s not fair that people get addicted to sex, booze or burgers. But because of addiction and ignorance, does this make it right to sue the corporations that Barber and the chubs blame for their tubby stomachs? Maybe they should sue the fitness centers for not being alluring enough or not having enough televisions so they could watch Emeril while they Stair Master-away the extra tonnage. Even more effective than this class-action lawsuit would be a Million Pound March on Washington – I just hope that Barber et al make sure they book the hotels closest to the Capitol because frankly, I don’t think the steaming masses will be able to get that gristle in motion for too many miles before someone needs a fast food break.

Luke Smith can be reached at lukems@umich.edu.

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