May 27, 2024

Calorie-Counting Rule to Leave Out Movie Theaters

The movie industry, which relies heavily on income from theater food sales, had pushed hard to be exempt from the new rules.

The Food and Drug Administration said it would make the proposed rules public Friday. The agency will then take feedback on the rules before finishing them, hopefully by the end of this year. They are expected to go into effect some time next year, said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods of the F.D.A.

“This is a really important and positive step in providing consumers information that they can use to choose healthy diets and fight obesity,” Mr. Taylor said.

The health care overhaul act passed last year included a provision that required chain restaurants and similar establishments that serve food at 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menus and menu boards.

The new rules, which spell out how the law would be applied, would take the place of a grab bag of menu labeling laws that already exist around the country, including in New York City and California. The restaurant industry supported a federal menu labeling rule so that it would not have to comply with a range of different regulations.

A preliminary F.D.A. document on the rules released last summer would have included movie theaters.

But Mr. Taylor said officials decided to write the rules so that they would apply only to establishments whose primary purpose was to sell restaurant food or where at least half the floor space was dedicated to food sales.

“The thinking has absolutely evolved based on comments we’ve gotten from a number of quarters,” Mr. Taylor said. “This is a different drawing of the circle of what is covered by this law.”

Mr. Taylor said the rules also did not cover alcohol sold in restaurants. That means that a chain restaurant that serves beer, wine or mixed drinks like margaritas, which are often sweet and calorie-heavy, would not have to include calorie counts for those items.

Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said leaving out movie theaters was a mistake.

“It doesn’t matter whether you happen to be watching a movie while you’re eating,” Ms. Wootan said. “Those calories still count.”

The center, an advocacy group, has issued reports showing that a large tub of popcorn with butter topping at some theaters can contain nearly 1,500 calories. A large soda can contain 500 calories. Federal dietary guidelines say that the average person needs about 2,000 calories a day.

But Ms. Wootan said that calorie labeling on menus would help people make healthier choices when they go out to eat, and that she was pleased to see that the F.D.A. was moving relatively quickly to put the rules in place.

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