I ran across an article a couple weeks ago about how movie theater operators are having tantrums about a potential requirement to tell people how many calories are in the popcorn and other snacks. It came to mind again recently while I was thinking of a foodie book I read a while back called "Mindless Eating".
Among its anecdotes, the book recounts an experiment done on movie-goers where they were given two week old, very stale, popcorn. It was free, everyone got one, and at the end the researchers explored how much everyone had eaten and why. Although participants uniformly agreed that it was stale and nasty, they still ate almost all of it! Distracted by the movie and conditioned by culture to munch while watching, they kept dipping back in and eating more, pausing only briefly in the cycle when reminded by taste that it wasn't yummy.
When you consider that (according to the article above) a large popcorn has nearly 1,500 calories - almost an entire recommended daily intake - and the research into cultural conditioning exposed by Mindless Eating, it gets very hard to feel compassion for the movie theater operators. Especially when you consider that it's not really butter they're piling onto those mounds of popcorn - suddenly an old fashioned treat has become an calorie and potentially allergy-laden time bomb (many butter alternatives are soy based)!
I know... I should quit talking about food because it depresses people. But it bothers me that these kinds of stories keep showing up in the press and no one seems to care to offer balanced perspectives. I was a business major - I fully appreciate the pain the neck that it is to comply with random and changing FDA requirements while still meeting the desires of your customers who usually don't really want to know the truth. But we're reaching the point as a society where we don't have the luxury of not caring any more. Ethics no longer haunt corporate halls and business men's consciences have ceased to keep us safe.
Any time you read about food, take it with a grain of salt and look for the big picture. Journalists may write it as a human interest piece or small side story, but the stakes are high and the implications far wider than we imagine.