Regulators' appetite for calorie counts is about to extend beyond restaurants to thousands of other places that offer food, including airplanes, movie theaters and convenience stores.
The expansion stems from provisions in the health-care overhaul enacted in March. The government wants calorie listings posted to make it easier for consumers to select healthier options, and the restaurant industry backed the move so it could avoid a patchwork of local ordinances that are developing.
So far, the expansion of the calorie counts beyond restaurants has drawn praise from nutrition advocates but push-back from industries that say the original legislation was never intended to hit them.
"People don't go to movie theaters for the primary purpose of eating," said Gary Klein, a vice president for a group representing theater owners. "Why aren't ballparks covered? You think the food served at ballparks is healthy?"
The health-care law said chain restaurants with 20 locations or more are required to post the caloric information on their menus. That requirement took effect when President Barack Obama signed the law, but the places that serve food aren't expected to begin complying until penalties kick in next year.
In preliminary guidelines released last week, the Food and Drug Administration said the scope of the law stretches beyond restaurants to encompass airlines, trains, grocery-store food courts, movie theaters and convenience stores that qualify as chains. Within grocery stores, the agency said, it is considering including salad bars, store bakeries, pizza bars and delicatessens. Stadiums aren't listed since they aren't chains.
The FDA plans to make official who is covered, and how, in December.