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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Convenience stores may have lost on the menu labeling issue, but a new poll finds that consumers are in favor of the move.
According to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in December, most Americans favor labeling calories on menus in fast food and sit-down restaurants, and for prepared foods in stores as well.
The poll was conducted a little more than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed new rules that will require restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food "clearly and conspicuously" on their menus, menu boards and displays. Companies will have until November 2015 to comply.
According to The Associated Press, 56 percent of Americans favor requiring fast food restaurants to post calorie amounts on menus, while 54 percent favor the calorie postings at sit-down restaurants and 52 percent favor the labels at prepared food counters at grocery stores.
Slightly fewer approved of requiring the calorie postings in other dining locations: 49 percent of Americans supported posting calories on coffee shop menus and 44 percent approved of the postings on vending machines and at movie theaters. Forty-three percent favored calorie postings in amusement parks. All of those establishments will be required to post calorie amounts under the new FDA rules.
On the other end of the spectrum, only about one in 10 Americans oppose labeling requirements at each of these places. The remainder said they neither favor nor oppose each requirement, according to the report.
Looking at the poll results deeper, women are more likely than men to say they favor labeling requirements at restaurants and prepared-food counters, though a majority of men support the labeling at fast food restaurants and around half support it at sit-down restaurants.
In addition, college-educated respondents are more likely than those without a college education to favor labeling requirements at all of the establishments.
To help consumers understand the significance of the caloric information in the context of a total daily diet, menus and menu boards must include the statement: "2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary."
The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide — upon consumer request and as noted on menus and menu boards — written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Associated Press-GfK poll found that 55 percent of Americans say how many calories a food item contains is very or extremely important to them. Same with sodium levels.
Sugar and fat were slightly more important to health-conscious diners — 61 percent said sugar was very or extremely important when deciding on healthy purchases and 59 percent said the same about the amount of fat.
Only 36 percent of Americans said they feel the level of vitamins and minerals is extremely or very important when making healthy purchases, and even fewer — 23 percent, less than a quarter — said the same about whether an item is organic. Women and people living in urban areas were most likely to make organic food a priority.
Even though a majority favors more calorie labeling, most Americans say they already have enough information to decide whether they are making healthy purchases at restaurants.
Sixty percent say they now have enough nutrition information at sit-down restaurants and 56 percent say they do at fast food restaurants. That number drops to 48 percent at prepared food counters in grocery stores.
Around a third say they don't have enough information to decide if they are making a healthy purchase in any of those places.
According to the AP, when it comes to the grocery store, 75 percent of people say they have enough information to make a healthy choice. Unlike restaurants, where nutritional information is often a mystery, nutrition facts panels have been required on packaged foods since the 1990s. The FDA included prepared foods at supermarkets in the menu labeling rules as grocery stores have increasingly sold restaurant-like offerings.