With the new year comes new laws for Vermont. One requires Vermont restaurants that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations nationwide to include calorie counts for standard offerings on menus and menu boards.
The new law will make it easier for consumers to know exactly how many calories are in the food they are ordering.
"What the menus are supposed to have on them is the calories info and what is exciting about this new law is the information is supposed to be right in front of people. The number of calories and the menus are also supposed to say how many calories people are supposed to have on a regular basis so they can make a comparison," said Ellen Albertson of the Vermont Dietetic Association.
But there is a glitch; some chain restaurants say they won't be able to make those changes in time for Saturday, because they did not know about the new law. Many restaurants already have information for guests who are interested in calorie counts and food allergies; all they have to do is ask. The pizza chain Uno has had an electronic kiosk for years, so guests can look up information on the menu selections. Manager Patrick Brady says this should satisfy the new state law.
"I believe it does. I have not seen the law, the first I heard of it actually was watching the news, so I was a little surprised to hear it, but I feel we are complying with that," Brady said.
Brady says Uno is in the process of printing new menus for all its restaurants nationwide.
Other chain owners will have to bear the costs themselves. Damartin Quandros and his sister own two Dunkin Donut franchises. He estimates it will cost $1,000 to comply with the new state law.
"We are a chain but I only own two stores, so it will only affect chains not small stores," Quandros said. "Well, that is not true. I am a small business and it is affecting us."
The criticism we heard wasn't about giving consumers more info on the food they choose, most think that's a great idea. It's the gray area in Vermont's new law that has some business owners very concerned. Concerned because at the same time, the Food and Drug Administration is now drafting rules for a new federal law that will eventually take precedence over Vermont's labeling law.
"It is going to cost close to a thousand dollars for us to change the menu boards and the real issue is 6 months from now when the federal law is enacted, that will preempt any existing state law," Quandros said. "Am I going to have to spend that again to change it to comply with the federal law?"
According to the Vermont Attorney General's office it is OK for restaurants that miss the deadline to include temporary calorie disclosure in their menus and on their menu boards until permanent replacements are available.