FDA Dishes Up New Calorie Posting Regulations

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You’ve always known that that giant tub of buttered popcorn at your local cineplex wasn’t exactly good for you. And that chocolate long john you picked up on your way to work after filling up at the gas station — you probably should have grabbed a banana instead. We know which foods are bad for us; what we often don’t know is how bad they are.

The Food and Drug Administration is about to change that.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the FDA has recently announced new guidelines that would require a whole new range of businesses to post calorie counts for the food they sell, including movie theaters, convenience stores, and even airplanes. The businesses would also have to make other nutritional information available upon request, such as fat, sodium and carbohydrate content.

It’s all part of the massive health-care overhaul passed earlier this year. The new law requires that restaurant chains with 20 or more locations post calorie counts and provide nutritional information. Now the FDA is saying the law applies to more than just restaurants.

“One of the most important things we can do when it comes to the nation’s health is to provide simple basic information to the American people so they can make choices that are best for them and their family,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Whether posting calorie counts actually steers customers toward more waistline-friendly options is a matter of debate. Some cities, such as New York, already require restaurants to post the information, and the results have been mixed.

“A 2009 study published in the journal Health Affairs didn’t find evidence that menu labeling influenced the total number of calories purchased by New York residents,” the Wall Street Journal notes, while “[a] Stanford University study of Starbucks outlets in New York City found that average calories per transaction fell by 6 percent after menu listings took effect.”

Photo courtesy of Gangles87, Flickr

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