Monday, March 28, 2011

Damn You Regulators, Leave Our Popcorn Alone

A March 23, 2011  LA Times article says that the FDA is planning to require theaters to disclose the nutritional value of their snacks, including popcorn.  And the theater owners aren't happy.

Some highlights of the article:

Lots of Calories
A 2009 survey based on laboratory tests commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington found that a large popcorn serving contained as much as 1,460 calories — which is the equivalent of eating nearly three McDonald's Big Macs.
The center's survey of the nation's three biggest chains found that a large popcorn at Regal packed 60 grams of saturated fat and 1,200 calories (260 calories more with butter topping), and the equivalent size at AMC theaters had 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat. A large popcorn at Cinemark, which uses canola oil, had 910 calories and 4 grams of fat.

Lots of Profits
As David Ownby, the chief financial officer of Regal Entertainment Group, the nation's largest theater circuit, recently said at an investor presentation, "We sell a bucket of popcorn for about $6. Our cost in that $6 bucket of popcorn is about 15 cents or 20 cents. So if that cost doubles, it doesn't really hurt me that much."

Lots of Denial
They argue that the proposed rules are an unwarranted intrusion into their business because people visit theaters to consume movies, not food.

"We're not restaurants where people go to eat and satisfy themselves," Gary Klein, the theater trade group's general counsel, said. "It's dinner and a movie, not dinner at a movie."
Except that:
Theater operators . . . generate up to one-third of their revenue from selling popcorn, sodas and other snacks.

According to the article such disclosures are already required in California and New York City.
But theater executives contend that such disclosures should be voluntary and that they're only selling customers what they want.

"The average person goes to the theater four times a year," Klein said. "I don't think they care."

Corporations have incentives to resist giving out information that would allow people to make better choices if that might impact their bottom line.  Same as the oil companies aren't promising anyone in Alaska that the $2 billion tax reductions will lead to more investment in Alaska.  Trust us, we're here to take your money.  And we don't care what happens to you.

UPDATE April 2, 2011:  The New York Times reports that proposed rules exempt theaters from disclosure:

The federal government on Friday released proposed rules requiring chain restaurants and other businesses that serve food to post calorie counts on menus and menu boards. But after objections from theater chains, the rules give a pass to those box-office snacks — even though a large popcorn and soda can contain as many calories as a typical person needs in a day.
The new disclosure rules also exempt alcoholic beverages served in restaurants, including beer, wine and high-calorie mixed drinks like margaritas and daiquiris.
The Food and Drug Administration said it would accept consumer and industry 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 at the F.D.A.

1 comment:

  1. Yuck. Theater popcorn, where you need a squeegee for the roof of your mouth after eating it. It's corn with a mixture of fat and super glue. What else needs to be disclosed? If someone still eats it after having tried it, they deserve the heart attack that goes with it. Yuck-yuck-yuck!


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