Jack Nicas writes in the Berkshire Eagle Calories may be on the menu for Massachusetts’ fast-food restaurants if the state’s Public Health Council has its way.The council’s proposed regulation to require chain restaurants to list caloric information on all menus, including boards at fast-food counters and drive-through windows, brought on a fast-food fight between health advocates and restaurant representatives at a hearing Wednesday.
The public can submit comments on the proposal until Wednesday. The Public Health Council is then expected to vote on the regulation at its April 8 meeting. If passed, the law would go into effect six months later.
Food industry representatives — such as Gregory Williams of the Scrivanos Group, which represents 65 Dunkin’ Donuts locations — said the requirement would add undue costs to owners during these economic hard times.
“This proposal would be devastating to restaurants despite the Public Health Council statements to the contrary,” he said.
Williams said the costs of compliance would fall on individual owners of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, which make up nearly 43 percent of the 2,800 restaurants likely to be affected.
Business advocates urged officials to consider the alternative Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act, a bill that died in Congress last session.
The LEAN act resembles the state proposal, but is more flexible, allowing calorie information in inserts, supplemental menus, or signs rather than directly on menus.
Jim Coen, president of DD Independent Franchise Owners, said he expected legislation to be filed again in March.
Some fast food chains already display calories. Burger King and Wendy’s list full nutritional information for their products on posters near registers and dining areas. But that wouldn’t be enough under the proposed state regulation, which requires calorie information to be directly on the menus.
“We’re an advocate of putting it exactly where we have it,” said Wendy’s spokesman Denny Lynch. “It gives you more information.”