Eating Out Can Add to Obesity, FDA Report Says

The Food and Drug Administration released a report Friday about the links between obesity and eating out at restaurants. The report says that no link has been proven but that people are more likely to eat more at restaurants because of the large portions and the convivial atmosphere. The restaurant industry is not happy about the report.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now to another form of entertainment: eating out.

The restaurant industry is taking issue with a new report about the links between obesity and eating out. The report was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration.

NPR's Jim Zarroli has this story.

JIM ZARROLI reporting:

The report notes that Americans are getting more and more food from restaurants and take out places. They're also getting fatter.

Sixty-four percent of adults in the United States are overweight. The report, which was prepared by the Colorado-based Keystone Center, says no link has been proven between these two trends, but it says people may be tempted to eat more in restaurants because of the convivial atmosphere, the availability of high calorie foods, and the disinhibiting effects of alcohol.

The report says restaurants can do a lot more to help people eat better by serving smaller portions, providing more nutritional information, and promoting healthier eating. In response, the National Restaurant Association says the report unfairly targets the industry. The Association says many chains now offer low calorie menu options. Among them is Applebees, which has some 1,800 restaurants.

But Applebees spokesman Frank Ybarra says the company doesn't provide nutrition information for its non-diet foods. Ybarra says the menu varies so much, from place to place, that collecting such information is simply too complicated.

Mr. FRANK YBARRA (Spokesman for Applebees Restaurant Chain): You've got to take it in to a lab, and very much, you know, examine all those elements and make sure you have those numbers correct. And then you have to make sure that there's not a lot of variation, from one restaurant to the next, in how that item is being prepared. So, it's not an impossible task, but it is a difficult task.

ZARROLI: Ybarra says the company would provide nutritional information is customers asked for it, but there hasn't been a lot of demand so far.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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