FDA calorie-count rules force changes from grocers to pizzerias

Source: Chicago Tribune.com
The Food and Drug Administration, seeking to fight obesity, issued menu-labeling rules that force restaurants, movie theaters and grocery stores to add calorie information to the food they sell.
The regulations catch the rest of the country up to what cities like New York have already done. Pizzerias, whose a la carte options make precise nutrition information difficult, will have to provide a range of calorie counts. Movie theaters, which had been spared in a draft version, were included in the final rules, as were alcoholic beverages.
The grocery industry will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to adjust to the new rules, Rosado’s group, an Arlington, Virginia-based lobby for grocery stores, said on its website…The rules will cost as much as $1.7 billion over 20 years across the industries and create as much as $9.2 billion in benefits, such as better public health, the FDA said in the final rules.
The national rules take effect in a year and apply to restaurant chains with 20 or more locations. A labeling rule for vending machines will apply in two years to companies that operate 20 or more machines. Other nutrition information, such as fat, carbohydrates or sugars, must be available upon request.
There is evidence that regulations like the FDA’s can have a modest effect. New York City found that about 15 percent of people surveyed as they exited restaurants said they used the calorie counts. And large chain restaurants introduced new food and beverage options last year that, on average, contain 60 fewer calories than their traditional menu selections in 2012, according to research released in October from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Movie theater chains, including Cinemark Holdings Inc., Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., made about 30 percent of revenue from concessions including candy, popcorn and soda, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A large tub of movie theater popcorn contains about 1,000 calories, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Pizza chains will be able to post a range of calories for their items on menu boards. Also exempt are foods like sliced cheese, meat and other items from the deli stand that are meant to be shared or prepared. Salad and hot bars in grocery stores still must list calorie information.
Calorie counts will be available in more than 200,000 restaurants, the Washington-based restaurant association said in a statement.
The rules could lower how many calories Americans get on the plate when they order out. McDonald’s, the world’s biggest restaurant chain, began posting calorie counts on its menu boards in 2012 and said it would test healthier items, such as egg-white breakfast sandwiches, 350-calorie sweet chili chicken wraps and more produce side items.
“Restaurants will have an incentive to create healthier dishes, smaller portions,” said Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. “I believe that there is some evidence that that indeed has happened.”

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