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The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration on Friday issued new rules that will require chain restaurants with 20 outlets or more to post the calorie counts of their food and beverage offerings on their menu boards.

According to the story, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “left out movie theaters, along with airplanes, bowling alleys, amusement parks, hotels and other establishments where the sale of food is not a primary business.

“The agency said it excluded them in part because they generally don't present themselves to the public as restaurants. However, the regulation will apply to establishments where more than 50% of the total floor area is used for the sale of food. Convenience stores still are required to post calorie counts, along with supermarket eateries, pastry and retail confectionary stores, coffee shops, snack bars and ice-cream parlors.” The new rules say that the font size has to be "clear and conspicuous" and in a color that's "at least as conspicuous as" that of the menu item.

And, the story says, “The FDA estimates that the regulation, as proposed, would apply to 278,600 establishments, out of an estimated 600,000 restaurants nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association. It projects the initial cost of complying with the proposed requirements is $315.1 million, with an estimated ongoing cost of $44.2 million. Per restaurant establishment, that averages $1,100, the FDA says.”

The Journal reports that the “FDA also said it ‘tentatively’ concluded that bars and restaurants don't have to post calorie labels on beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages. It cited the fact that alcoholic beverages are regulated by a different federal agency, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and that it was not clear Congress intended the calorie-label provision to apply to such drinks, given the different agency jurisdictions.”
KC's View:
My only problem with this is, quite frankly, that they are exempting movie theaters - I frankly feel that everybody ought to be playing on the same field, without advantage.

It is amazing to me how many people think that initiatives like these are telling people what they can eat. These rules don’t even tell people what they should eat, though there certainly are plenty of inferences if you see that a doughnut has 750 calories.

As a consumer, I want information. The more informed a consumer is, the more informed he or she wants to be ... and the more suspicious he or she is about a lack transparency.

I wish that people would stop arguing over this. Nutritional labeling is not gastronomic fascism. It is just understanding that in a world of increasing transparency, and one in which obesity rates have doubled in four decades, companies need to be up front about the nutritional impact of what they are selling.