Food court

The food police are at it again.

By Paul King, Editorial Director

A New Jersey man, with the support of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has sued Denny’s Corp. over the levels of sodium in its menu items. Nick DeBenedetto, who according to the suit suffers from hypertension that is controlled by medication, wants Denny’s to disclose the amount of sodium in all its menu items and place a warning about high levels of sodium on the menu.

CSPI has battled with Denny’s for more than a year about sodium in its food. Denny’s executives say they have made changes in the menu in recent months to address sodium concerns, and a company press release addressing the lawsuit stated, “Denny’s offers a wide variety of choices for consumers with different lifestyles, understanding that many have special dietary needs.”

However, the menu alterations have not satisfied CSPI, a nutrition advocacy group that loves to battle restaurant chains. So the organization has stepped into DeBenedetto’s corner—without proof I could only speculate whether CSPI instigated the suit—as he tries to get the 1,500-restaurant chain to own up to its sodium fixation.

In one newspaper account, DeBenedetto said he was “shocked” to learn how much sodium was in some of Denny’s breakfast items. (So was I, frankly—in the worst case, there is nearly 5,700 milligrams of sodium in the Meat Lover’s Scramble—but, then, I’m not a frequenter of Denny’s restaurants.) DeBenedetto realizes he is putting his health at risk every time he eats at Denny’s, which he admits is often.

I have no problem with DeBenedetto’s crusade, per se. I myself am trying to lose weight and reduce my cholesterol and blood pressure, so were I inclined to dine at Denny’s, such information about its menu item would certainly cause me to reconsider.

My objection is to DeBenedetto’s response, which is to try to get a judge to force Denny’s to change its menus to suit him. That seems to have become almost a conditioned response in this country: sue a company to force a change in policy. Whatever happened to the good old American boycott?

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