For most of her life, when Jazlyn Bradley "would see an ad for a new McDonald's sandwich," she says, "I'd think, 'I've got to try that.'" And she did, sometimes eating at the fast-food joint twice a day, downing everything from McMuffins to McNuggets. "The food tasted good," says Bradley, 19, a Brooklyn trade school student, "and it was a fun place to go."
Not anymore. In June 2001, after the 5'6" Bradley hit almost 300 lbs., she stopped eating McDonald's meals on doctor's advice—and now she wants the company to pay for making her obese. Along with Bronx ninth-grader Ashley Pelman, 14, who is 4'10" and 170 lbs., Bradley has filed a lawsuit against McDonald's charging, among other things, that it doesn't do enough to educate consumers about the fat and cholesterol content of its food. "If you had told me the food was unhealthy," says Bradley's father, Israel, 60, an ex-plumber's assistant, "I wouldn't have believed you."
McDonald's has responded to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory damages, by asking Judge Robert Sweet of U.S. District Court in Manhattan for a dismissal. (A ruling on that motion could take several weeks.) "McDonald's is no more responsible for an individual's overall diet," the company said in a statement, "than any other food destination."
But Bradley, who has lost some 30 lbs. in the past year by eating home-cooked meals like chicken and collard greens, is standing firm. So is Pelman, whose mother, Roberta, 50, a former food-service worker now on public assistance, recently restricted McDonald's trips to twice a month. "It's not their responsibility to take care of people's children," Pelman says. "But it is their responsibility to let you know what's in their food."
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