"Cheesehead" on Grim Reaper removed from Wisconsin billboard

MILWAUKEE Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:45pm EDT

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MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The company that makes the iconic foam "cheesehead" hats favored by Green Bay Packer football fans got one removed from an image of the Grim Reaper on an anti-cheese billboard, the billboard sponsor said on Tuesday.

Under threat of a lawsuit from Foamation, Inc., the Wisconsin company that makes the cheeseheads, the billboard company digitally removed the image on an electronic sign near Lambeau Field, where the Packers play, said Dan Kinburn, general counsel for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The committee sponsored the billboard, which features a scythe-carrying Grim Reaper cautioning about the health hazards of eating cheese. Also on the billboard is the warning: "Cheese Can Sack Your Health. Fat. Cholesterol. Sodium."

"We felt that we had the right under the First Amendment to do that, because this is an issue of public importance, the public health of the citizens of Wisconsin," Kinburn said. "The message is aimed at Packer fans, average Joes, who maybe eat a little too much cheese and dairy, get overweight -- it's just not healthy."

"Wisconsin residents get bombarded with messages hundreds of times a year touting the benefits of cheese and milk," Kinburn said. "We are trying to counter that message with a simple, fun public health message.

The physicians' group was prepared to leave the cheesehead on the billboard, Kinburn said, but Foamation threatened to sue the billboard company.

Still at issue is the same message with the picture of the Grim Reaper wearing the cheesehead on the Physicians Committees web site. Denise Kaminsky, office manager for Foamation, said the company's attorney is working to also have that image removed.

Wisconsin is one of the leading milk and dairy producing states.

(Writing and reporting by John Rondy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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