will be famous for 15 minutes."
- Andy Warhol
Who knew Andy Warhol's famous saying would someday apply to trans fatty acids?
California activist attorney Stephen Joseph, who filed suit last week to ban Oreo cookies due to the potential health dangers associated with the trans fat used in making them, has dropped his case. (Read Assault on Black and White) "After three days of incredible national publicity, everyone knows about trans fat," Joseph announced upon withdrawing his lawsuit. He believes he has educated the nation on the dangers of trans fat, and rendered his own lawsuit baseless.
Does this mean Oreo cookies are doomed? Doubtful. McDonald's can assure Kraft, Inc., the maker of Oreo cookies, of the lack of impact similar frivolous lawsuits have had on their dedicated consumers, and Oreo loyalists are most likely not going to succumb to Joseph's efforts to ruin the ever-popular cream-filled cookie.
As for California's legal loophole, which allows manufacturers to be held liable for not disclosing "harmful products" to the consumer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is days away from approving the addition of trans fat to the nutritional information on all food packages. Contrary to Joseph's accusations, Kraft has publicly supported the disclosure of trans fat on its product for three years. Joseph conveniently filed his suit before the FDA released its new labeling plan, perhaps hoping to grab last minute headlines with his crusade.
Joseph has publicly admitted that his lawsuit was nothing more that a publicity stunt. He has arguably committed an ethical offense, that of misusing the courts as a means to media exposure, punishable with sanctions. We'd prefer to agree with Shakespeare's suggestion on what to do with lawyers, but that might be construed as incendiary speech, not protected by the First Amendment.
Perhaps to warn the nation of the dangers of frivolous lawsuits, and the lawyers who clog our judicial system filing them, Joseph could get another 15 minutes having his law license publicly revoked.May 22, 2003
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