Menu Labeling Moves Into Theaters, Airplanes, Convenience Stores

Megan is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
calories_on_menuNathan's menu has been updated to conform to a new New York City law requiring the posting of calories on chain restaurant menus. (Photo: Kai Brinker/Creative Commons)

Movie theaters and convenience stores dodged a bullet last March when the health care overhaul targeted only restaurant chains with 20 or more establishments, requiring them to post the calorie counts of their goods.

But nutrition advocates and industry proponents are now going head-to-head over whether or not every establishment that serves food should be looped into that regulation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced plans to expand the calorie posting law to convenience stores, food courts, movie theaters, and trains. Details of who must comply will be revealed in December. 

In the meantime, Erik Lieberman, regulatory counsel for the Food Marketing Institute, told the Wall Street Journal that the law should not apply to grocery stores, where people come to purchase food but eat it in their homes. That distinction, he says, should free grocery store foods from the regulations that apply to faster, ready-to-eat meals.

Other industry stakeholders are less bothered. Lou Sheetz, executive vice president at Sheetz Inc., a convenience store chain with 380 outlets, told the Wall Street Journal that he expects showing the calorie count of a gas station donut might put some customers off buying the treat, but that healthy food purchases will make up the loss.

Studies haven't decisively proven that menu labeling precipates healthier choices. Still, health-food advocates hope that increased transparency could combat obesity.

"Everybody's going to be a little bit better informed," Sheetz explained to the Journal, "and that's a good thing."

Photo: Kai Brinker/Creative Commons via Flickr


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