I don’t know if anyone’s thought of this catchy phrase for the target of the next major set of consumer liability trials: Big Soda. The trial lawyers took on what they dubbed Big Tobacco and won big-time. Now, the NY Times suggests some of the same attorneys who tackled the tobacco companies now have Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other purveyors of liquid poison in school vending machines in their sights. These companies present a big target in terms of what they’re earning from this captive audience. They have deep pockets as highly profitable corporations. And they’re doing next to nothing to rectify their bad habits. So let’s call ’em Big Soda. They deserve a big fat legal bull’s eye on their big fat corporate backs.
Big Soda’s trade association protests that the industry has been listening to its critics:
In August, the [American] Beverage Association announced that beverage companies would stop selling soda and other drinks with added sugar in elementary schools and would restrict the sale of regular, full-calorie soda in middle schools to after-school hours only. Next month, the association is planning to run an ad campaign about the new policy.
I can’t wait to see what these ads are going to say: “Big soda really quenches your thirst while it rots your teeth and makes you fat.” Oops, I guess they won’t be using that campaign.
Seriously, the problem with the ABA’s position above is that it ignores high school students who are Big Soda’s biggest customers because they consume the largest amount of product. What Big Soda needs to do is simple: pull all sodas (any drinks containing artificial sweeteners, corn syrup and the like) from the machines and replenish them with real 100% juice and other healthy drinks. The industry will be extremely unhappy with this plan because it makes it largest profits from the stuff that is the worst for you health-wise. Why should it voluntarily start worrying about the health of America’s children?
That’s the reason why Big Soda needs big trial attorneys to bring them to heel. My only hope is that this time, the attorneys will ensure that any proceeds earned from the industry go directly to groups promoting good health and healthy diets for children. If the public sees too much of a windfall for the attorneys and too little for the groups that can really make a difference in improving children’s health, then the lawyers will start looking little better than the soft drink industry itself.