WARNING: Life Could Lead To Death!

Warningsign I wish I knew more about civil lawsuits. If I did I might be able to understand just exactly how the restaurant chain Denny's could possibly be held responsible and even punished for disclosing that there is lots of salt in their food. This is exactly what they are facing.

I understand, kind of how MacDonald's could be be sued for giving scalding coffee to drivers who, if they spilled it, could seriously hurt themselves. We are talking about an immediate threat to the coffee drinker. But is there really an immediate threat to someone who eats a Grand Slam Breakfast due to the salt in that delicious plate of goodness?

The suit claims that folks with high blood pressure could retain too much water if they eat food with excessive amounts of salt, leading to water building up in the lungs. The lawsuit calls on Denny's to list the salt in each item on its menu AND put health warnings on its menu. 

You know what bothers me? You could use this argument to make the case that water should be labeled as dangerous since if your drink it in excessive amounts, too much water will build up in your body and you might drown.

What bothers me more is that the claim could be made that if a person drinks too much wine they could die of alcohol poisoning.

Wouldn't it be appropriate to for the following words to be placed at the end of these kinds of warnings: "NO SHIT!!"

I'm generally the last person you'll see making "slippery slope" arguments. I think they are conjecture filled and often illogical formulations that are best categorized as rhetoric and hyperbole and tend not to even be in the vicinity of logical or well-thought out. That said, is there any reason to believe that a combination of motivated and well financed food police, an apathetic populace, lawsuit hungry lawyers and timid politicians will eventually lead us to a serious discussion of criminal penalties for food and drink purveyors who offer items that might hurt our health?

Will we eventually want to put a government-mandated warning on our foreheads that reads: "WARNING: Life Could Lead To Death!".

I, like everyone else, has become accustomed to the warning labels on wine. Have they saved lives? I don't know. Have they lessened risks associated with alcohol consumption. Probably. But isn't there a line? Isn't there place where concern for health becomes a burden on our intellect, not to mention a burden on commerce, that outweighs any benefit that comes from mandating the warnings on how we choose to live our life?

20 Responses

  1. Catie - August 4, 2009

    Good rant! My personal rant is the sulfite warning label on the bottle of wine. It has done nothing but created hysteria and brought misinformation to the consumer. For crying out loud the human body produces more sulfites (1000mg) daily than what’s in a bottle of wine (measured in ppm). What I cracks me up is the person who won’t drink red wine “because of all of the sulfites” while he/she chows down to a plate of processed French fries and catsup which are loaded with sulfites! Dried fruits and trail mixes – full of sulfites! And then all of the fuss and fine line of hypocrisy when some people will only drink “organic” wine because their body is a temple, but they sure want the alcohol in their wines. Ummm – the alcohol in the wine is going to kill you way before the sulfites ever will. How many deaths do we have daily due to driving under the influence of sulfites? Silly people.

  2. Vera - August 4, 2009

    Caveat emptor, for pete’s sake!

  3. smeds - August 4, 2009

    Don’t discount the “slippery slope.” Remember during the hey day of tobacco lawsuits. Those who said that fast food joints would be next were said to be ridiculous. Helloooooo Denny’s!

  4. Blake - August 4, 2009

    Sometimes we’re an insipid nation. We won’t allow delicious unpasteurized French cheeses in the country because somebody might possibly get sick. Instead, we sell them good, healthy Cheez Whiz by the case.

  5. el jefe - August 4, 2009

    Water is especially dangerous – heck, you can sink a battleship in it!
    Thanks for the post.. I am now visualizing a world in which every square inch of every object in the world is covered with warnings. Only then will we be truly safe.

  6. Thomas Pellechia - August 4, 2009

    Water! Do you know what fish do in water?

  7. Dan-O - August 4, 2009

    …and do you know what comes out of your mouth when you exhale? Gasp!

  8. Samantha - August 4, 2009

    What ever happened to the thinning of the herd? If you are not vested enough in your own health to figure out what you can and cannot eat, well….

  9. Morton Leslie - August 4, 2009

    Given types of bullshit lawsuits that find success in the United States the warning label actually protects you from them. “You were warned sir that it was dangerous operating machinery after drinking those two six packs.”
    Behind the scenes, there was in fact a great deal of support for a warning label within the wine industry among those who realized the risk they were facing. What was in contention was what it would say.
    I say the more warning labels the better and the less anyone will pay attention to them.

  10. Charlie Olken - August 4, 2009

    I am in favor of a giant warning label on everything. If you act stupidly when you are awake and fail to act intelligently when you are asleep, you will undoubtedly do something that is going to kill you sooner or later. If on the other hand, you act intelligently all the time, you will still die sooner or later unless you stop breathing the air that is so bad for your lungs, and then you will die anyhow.

  11. Dylan - August 5, 2009

    I don’t necessarily agree with the suit, but it’s nice to be informed. I appreciate the ability to have nutrition facts when I’m eating out. It allows me to make the informed decisions which Samantha noted, “figure out what you can and cannot eat.” I know it’s easy to laugh at it and say, “No Duh! Of course, this food isn’t good for you.” But I think that stems from our own ignorance to the overall lack of education in our country regarding nutrition. Not everyone takes their health into their own hands and as seriously as I’m sure all the commenters here do.
    In fact, consider this information from Winesooth’s blog regarding a recent study: “of 722 people in Great Britain, less than half could identify the heart and its location on a diagram, a third could correctly identify the lungs, and 38% could identify the stomach. The results are likely to be the same (and possibly worse, as some speculate) on this side of the big pond.”

  12. fmc - August 5, 2009

    Actually Dylan, I think it stems from too many lawyers.

  13. Greybeard - August 5, 2009

    What, you can’t tell is food is salty?
    It’s not just the US that has this sort of stupidity – Health and Safety Czars have run riot all over Europe now, the “Nanny State” trying to ensure no-one gets hurts in anyway whatsoever (at least if it may result in a law-suit or two).
    Your water and life comparisons are spot on – Oxygen is a poison, water is the most insiduous solvent known to man, most food stuffs can be classed as carcinogens to some degree.
    We’re all going to die, for god’s sake let us have some fun along the way!

  14. Greybeard - August 5, 2009

    …. and please pardon the spelling mistakes in the last post – when I get into a rant I don’t always spell-check before hitting send!

  15. Wine Clubs - August 5, 2009

    Seriously, talk about dumb. Oxygen can kill you, so could grass but we expect our neighbors to keep that healthy in their front yard! Where do we draw the line?

  16. Charlie Olken - August 5, 2009

    “Oxygen can kill you, so could grass”
    Yes, anyone who has ever smoked oxygen is well aware of the dangers.

  17. GP - August 6, 2009

    don’t eat red meat! don’t drink alcohol!
    stop smoking! stop using salt! don’t eat fish, too much mercury!
    don’t greet anyone with a handshake, oh the germs! don’t pet the neighbors dog!
    don’t play in the rain!
    Keep off the grass! stay out of the street!
    Eat your veggies, but only if they are organic! stop complaining!
    don’t try that! I wouldn’t do that!
    watch out for the other guy!
    don’t follow the crowd, but don’t be a loner!
    What’s life for anyway if I can’t do what I want for the sheer enjoyment of life’s experience! I need a shot of tequila and a joint! wait is that legal yet? Only in Madrid! but oh so tasty.

  18. Dennis Eagles Nest Winery - August 7, 2009

    Seriously folks – At what point will humans take responsibility for their own actions? This has been an exasperating trend for years – litigation induced no doubt.
    Reminder – YOU control what YOU do – so just (you) do it! (Like drinking more Red wine for health benefit reasons)
    I’ve said it before too “Studies have shown that Life will result in Death.”
    Thanks Tom

  19. KenPayton - August 8, 2009

    The lawsuit simply calls for compelling the disclosure of the salt content in the foods on Denny’s. No monetary damages are demanded. Tom linked to the story not to the organization bringing the lawsuit, The Center For Science In The Public Interest. Read the lawsuit here: http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/complaint_denny_s.pdf
    Mothers have the right to know what is in baby formula; home buyers should be able to comprehend the legalese of their loan applications; BGH use ought to be disclosed on cartons of milk; parents deserve to know the fat content of school menus; meat packing plants should be compelled to maintain better e-coli monitoring; methyl bromide ought be wafting onto children’s playgrounds; neither should chromated copper arsenate be allowed in playground structures.
    It is a foolish libertarian fantasy to think our lives have not been materially enhanced, our longevity extended by a 1001 environmental, health and food protection initiatives over the decades.
    Indeed, much of what now passes as ‘common sense’ is in fact the result of legislation, high profile lawsuits and, let’s face it, the premature deaths of millions. Asbestosis, lead and mercury poisoning, black lung disease, birth defects caused by thalidomide, we now understand these kinds of things, not because we all have fully appointed research labs and electron microscopes in our basements, but because ordinary people fought against corporate indifference to their maladies.
    The recommended daily dose of sodium is 1500 mgs and many of Denny’s meals contain between 4,000 to 5,000 mgs. Why is the mere disclosure to the consumer of that salt content such a lousy idea?

  20. KenPayton - August 8, 2009

    Oops! Two errors. The first line should read ‘on Denny’s menu’. In the second paragraph the line should read ‘methyl bromide ought not be wafting…’

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