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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Stephen Joseph

Aired May 12, 2003 - 20:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lawyer in California is suing to stop Kraft Foods from selling Oreos to kids because the cookies contain trans fat. Now, he says it's dangerous and children shouldn't eat it. Kraft calls the suit baseless.
Stephen Joseph is the lawyer who filed the suit. He's also the founder of BanTransFats.com. He joins us from San Francisco.

But, first, I should point out, we invited the company to join us tonight, but they gave us this statement instead. Kraft says -- quote -- "We know the importance of good nutrition and we are committed to helping people make healthy food choices. But lawsuits like this aren't the way to help people eat a good diet. We stand behind Oreo, a wholesome snack people have known and loved for more than 90 years."

What about it, Mr. Joseph? There have been a lot of lawsuits by other attorneys like this against various fast-food outlets. None of them have been successful. Why should yours be different?

STEPHEN JOSEPH, ATTORNEY: Let me just say first that I'm very upset to hear Kraft's statement. There's nothing wholesome about the Oreo cookie as long as it contains trans fat.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But the question is, why will your lawsuit be any different? What makes it different than these other lawsuits, which have been declared frivolous and didn't get anywhere in court?

JOSEPH: Well, I'm very happy to address that. In the case of tobacco, you were basically talking about adults who knew what they were doing. They knew, at least in later years, that tobacco was very harmful to their health. And tobacco products are actually labeled

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: We're not talking tobacco. We're talking fast food for kids. That was the lawsuit.

JOSEPH: I'm getting there. I'm getting there. I'm getting there.

When we talk about fast foods, like McDonald's and so on, it's commonly known, it's well known throughout the country that it's bad for you, you shouldn't eat it. OK? Up until yesterday, before all this publicity about trans fats today, very, very few people knew about trans fats.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: My question, though, is, you're telling me that people don't know that Oreos aren't necessarily the best food in the world for them?

JOSEPH: No, people don't know that Oreos have trans fat. They don't know that the partially hydrogenated soybean oil in an Oreo cookie is a trans fat, which is a molecular -- it's a product which has had its molecular structure changed in such a way that it causes havoc inside the body.

Now, they don't know that. The food manufacturers know that, but they don't know that. And that's why the lawsuit is different. That's why the lawsuit is different, because, as a matter of law in California, the fact that a product which is commonly used is not well-known in the community to be unsafe means that there is a basis for product liability.

COOPER: The response a lot of the people have when they hear this thing is that it sounds frivolous and that it's up to the parents. Parents should know this kind of stuff. Parents often determine what their kids eat. Isn't it a parent's responsibility?

JOSEPH: Well, the problem was, up until yesterday, at least, very few parents knew about this. And even today, I'm not sure that parents are getting the message. It's a complicated subject. That stuff shouldn't be in there.

A lot of parents trust people like Kraft when Kraft says, this is a wholesome snack. It's not a wholesome snack. And so people expect that Kraft is telling the truth and maybe the lawsuit is frivolous and maybe this lawyer has filed a lawsuit just for publicity. But it's not true.

We have Dr. Mary Enig, who is the world's leading authority on trans fats, who is backing this 100 percent. She's a consultant. You can read about her on the Web site BanTransFats.com. She's been fighting for 20 years to get rid of this stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: The bottom line, what is it you want? You want kids to stop eating this? You want this product to be taken off shelves? What do you want?

JOSEPH: My dream is for Kraft to be the good guy, to say, for Kraft to say: Oh, we're not going to fight this lawsuit. We're going to resolve it. And we're going to resolve it by taking this stuff out of our products over a period of time. We're going to do what Paul Newman did with Oreo cookies, which is, there are no trans fats in there. It's a great cookie.

I'm sorry I'm plugging it, but it's true. It shows it can be done and it is being done. So why shouldn't Kraft be the good guy? COOPER: All right, you made your point. Stephen Joseph, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thanks very much. We'll be following it.

JOSEPH: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks.

JOSEPH: Thank you.

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