Food products consumed in accordance with Atkins Diet not “defective or dangerous” products within meaning of products liability law

December 11, 2006 | Roger McEowen

A federal judge in New York has dismissed a complaint against Atkins Nutritionals and the Estate of Dr. Robert Atkins, from a man who claimed that the high-fat, no-carbohydrate Atkins Diet caused his cholesterol level to escalate in two months and triggered severe chest pains, requiring angioplasty and placement of a heart stent. The plaintiff claimed that the Atkins Diet and Atkins food products and supplements are “defective and unreasonably dangerous,” but the court granted Atkins’ motion to dismiss the case. The court reasoned that food utilized in the Atkins Diet (which are high fat-content foods) are not dangerous or defective products under products liability law. While such food presents health risks, the court noted that these are risks of which consumers are aware. The court noted that the average consumer clearly should anticipate that high-fat or high-protein foods (such as those consumed in the Atkins Diet) likely can lead to increased cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. The court also noted that while the Atkins Diet may be controversial, strange, and subject to criticism, the concepts espoused by the Diet are generally scientific, non-commercial speech that are protected by the First Amendment. Gorran v. Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., No. 05 Civ. 10679 (DC) (S.D. N.Y. Dec. 11, 2006).