New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken a lot of heat for his attempt to ban big sugary drinks but a recent poll finds huge majorities favor more, not less, information about calories.
Seventy percent of Americans favor having movie theaters list calories on menu boards and 68 percent favor having chain restaurants list calories for alcoholic beverages, according to a new poll released today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The survey comes as the Obama Administration is putting the finishing touches on a regulation requiring calorie counts at chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. To the dismay of many health groups, a draft of the rule released last year exempted alcoholic beverages, movie theaters, hotels, stadiums, and other venues that sell restaurant-type foods-even though the 2010 law that established calorie labeling included those venues.
According to the survey commissioned by CSPI, 77 percent of Americans want calorie labeling for the hot dogs, pizza slices, and burritos available at convenience stores, and 81 percent favor having supermarkets provide calorie information for their prepared restaurant-type foods, such as rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, and soups.
"Americans just want to know what they're eating," said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "Menu labeling at chain restaurants will be enormously helpful. But it doesn't make sense to create loopholes for certain companies, when that's not what Congress intended and it's not what people want."
CSPI says-and the restaurant industry by and large agrees-that requiring calorie labeling at supermarkets, convenience stores, and movie theaters promotes a level playing field.
"We believe the Proposed Rule arbitrarily and unjustifiably excludes establishments that are not only similar to, but actually function as, restaurants, and that have publicly announced their intention to offer restaurant-type food," the National Restaurant Association wrote in its comments to the Food and Drug Administration.
"If McDonald's is providing calorie counts for its sodas, why shouldn't 7-11 or Regal Cinemas?" Wootan asks. "If Cracker Barrel has to list calories for its salad bar items, why shouldn't Whole Foods or Safeway?"