Even Hot Dog Eating Contests Require Waivers?

August 9, 2023

If Major League Eating had a sun, it would rise and set on the Fourth of July in Coney Island. Move over Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs, as summertime eating contests are increasingly “a thing.” Food eating contests are so popular due to their novelty, competitive nature, and attractive cash prizes. They offer a spectacle, captivating audiences with awe-inspiring feats of gluttony. Yet entrants almost always sign a disclaimer when they enter any sort of contest that poses a risk. The contestant is doing the eating — no one shoved a hot dog down their throat, nor forced 10 stacks of pancakes into their stomachs. Let us examine the top 5 eating competitions and, in case you are ready to sign up – understand the legal aspects involved.

1.) Nathan’s Famous July 4 International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The 100 plus year tradition continues at the iconic Nathan’s Famous flagship restaurant in Coney Island, New York. According to Major League Eating archives, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Championship has occurred each July 4th since 1916, the year Nathan Handwerker opened the legendary restaurant. The women’s competition kicks off the event and is followed by the men’s competition. The absurdity of eating an excessive number of hot dogs in a short time captures people’s attention, making it a quirky and entertaining spectacle for viewers worldwide.

2.) The Wing Bowl. Held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the name speaks for itself. It started in 1993 by talk radio hosts Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti to fill the sports void during the NFL’s offseason leading up to the Super Bowl. Held at a large indoor arena, participants are given approximately 30 minutes to consume as many chicken wings as possible. This event helped propel competitive eating into the mainstream, contributing to the rise of Major League Eating (MLE). Side note: the event also features musical entertainment and cheerleaders.

3.) La Tomatina. While technically not a competitive eating contest, this event held in Bunol, Spain, involves participants throwing tomatoes at each other during a massive tomato fight. It is a unique food experience that attracts thousands of participants from around the world.

4.) Acme World Oyster Eating Championship. Hosted by the Acme Oyster House seafood restaurants in New Orleans, Louisiana, this contest is usually part of the larger French Quarter Festival, an annual music and food festival. The goal? A safe space where local contestants as well as professional eaters engage in a timed challenge of devouring as many oysters as possible. The oysters are raw and served on the half shell, and the slime factor adds to the mystique. The winner receives a cash prize as well as bragging rights.

5.) Akutagawa Ice Cream Eating Contest. This eating extravaganza takes place in the shopping district of Tokyo, Japan, and is meant to promote popular Japanese ice cream brands and flavors. Contestants must consume as many ice cream bars as possible within a set time frame. Such feats of consumption are meant to bring ice cream lovers together within the bustling Tokyo community for increased camaraderie.

Yet, it can’t all be oysters and ice cream bars. To even secure your seat in an eating competition, you must read the fine print on multiple legal documents. Participants must quickly acclimate themselves with the below:

  • Liability Waiver and Release Form absolves the organizers of the event from liability in case of injuries, accidents, or illnesses that occur during the competition.
  • Assumption of Risk Agreement ensures that participants understand the risks involved, such as overeating ailments or choking hazards.
  • Health Declaration Forms and Medical Clearances are often required from the participants’ primary care physicians to state they are physically capable of safely participating.
  • Media Release Forms grant the organizers permission to use the participants’ names, photos, and videos for promotional purposes.
  • Parental Consent form (for minors) applies in instances where participants are under the legal age of majority and their parents or legal guardians must grant them permission to participate.

Just as you think all the confusing legal complexities are resolved, we want to draw your attention to one more critical legal document: The Health Care Proxy a/k/a Health Care Surrogate Form, which allows you to plan ahead for tough medical decisions. It allows you to name someone (the “agent”) that will make health care decisions for you in case you are unable to make them yourself (due to illness or incapacity). Such decisions include consenting to medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different medical facility. If your competitive eating side hustle does take a turn for the worst, you will have peace of mind that any difficult medical decisions can be made on your behalf.

Amidst the excitement of an eating contest, it is essential to read all the fine print in the legal documents handed to you by the organizers. This is the only way to really protect yourself in case anything goes awry, ensuring that your participation is gratifying and worry free, both for you and your loved ones cheering you on from the sidelines.

For a free consultation about creating a Health Care Surrogate, or any other estate planning documents, call us at (954) 251-0332, email info@ocestatelawyers.com or use the contact form on the homepage of this website. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.