A Lame Argument for Unlabeled Popcorn

March 18, 2011 in Foodland Chronicles, Weight Management, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

An article called Theaters fight proposed calorie disclosure rule for movie snacks, written by Jeffrey Young hit the newspapers between March 12 and 14, 2011.  Thanks to Mr. Young for bringing this to our attention. What’s so funny to me is that the movie theaters seem to be using my tongue-in-cheek logic found in an earlier post on eating theater food. The post is called Going to a Movie for the Holidays.  The quote is, “You don’t gain weight from food eaten during the movie, because it is part of the total entertainment experience”.  This goes along with “its ok to eat broken cookies, because of caloric leakage”. Hey guys, it was only a joke. The body of the article, aside from the kidding, was an exposé on the mindless overeating of fattening (bad fat too) foods and enormous sugar-filled drinks purchased at highly inflated costs in movie theaters. It is a source of some resentment to me that what can be a wonderful whole grain food, popcorn, gets turned into a villain under the worst of mindless circumstances. Nothing like an engaging movie to get you to forget how much you’re overeating! This blog post attracted many readers, and I hope it did some good.

I realize that some people may slow down on the giant popcorn, loaded with butter and salt, if they knew what was in that ginormous bucket. I realize too, that concession sales are an important part of the theater’s profit; but are ethics allowed to be a consideration? If Americans are struggling to get out of the obesity, diabetes, heart disease epidemic, do we want to try to continue to disguise the theater popcorn as a heart healthy whole grain snack option, or as a friendly and harmlessly fun tradition?

I really like that Young comes right out in the first paragraph of his article identifying the fact that a bucket of popcorn with butter is equal to the calories in almost three Big Macs.

Lame argument

What a lame argument the movie theaters are using in lobbying the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to become exempt from the new regulation. They are trying to get off the hook by suggesting that they should only be subject to the rule if popcorn sales are more than 35 percent of gross revenue. Why should we care what the percentage concession sales represent of gross revenue? Please let’s help the public know what’s really in that butter bucket. Others argue that the grocery stores (those with little cafes) shouldn’t be subject to the rule either, because it’s such a small percentage of their sales. But shouldn’t that also exempt any specific product in the store that fell below an arbitrary percentage? At least in the grocery store, there is less mindless eating and smaller portion sizes. So let them feature that in their new labeling, if they really are so healthy. The theatres have gone way out on a limb with their obscene portion sizes, driven by mindless eating and past marketing successes – successes that have led to the traditions many have of buying popcorn and drinks as a part of the movie experience.

People are often eating the same fast food as sold at the movie theaters and in the ‘mini-cafés' in grocery stores. These junk/fast foods are what the federal government is trying to get the public to recognize, and slow down on the mindless overeating. Remember the stated goals in their new Dietary Guidelines, which clearly seek to guide the public to eat less fast food? Many people may not even pay attention to it; but if the shockingly awful numbers are there, there is at least a chance that they’ll notice the truth. I hope the FDA will stand fast, and give the public a better chance to learn the significance of these high calorie options.

It takes so long to get these regulations through the government process, then to have to drag it out fighting about who has to abide by the regulations must be even more frustrating to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They’ve worked so hard to get this regulation through the government’s process, in order to give the public the ability to recognize some of the key areas where all those calories and weight are coming from.

If we’re lucky, the FDA won’t let the theaters and grocery store cafes off the labeling hook and they’ll turn a deaf ear to the lame argument of sales percentages. If you agree, let your representatives in Washington know.  Let the FDA know too.  And make up a batch of delicious –and healthy --popcorn for yourselves, as described in our suggestions on healthy popcorn. Let not a delicious whole-grain food be corrupted by the bad company it keeps in theater concession stands.