FDA To Require Vending Machines To Label Calories
December 31, 2013 - News
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WASHINGTON—New labeling regulations for vending machines will require companies to display calorie information for food products, in an attempt to help consumers make healthier choices.

The legislation, Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, will go into effect early 2014, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releases official guidelines. FDA said roughly 5 million machines nationwide will be affected, costing the industry $25.8 million initially and $24 million per year after that, USA Today reported.

The current proposed guidelines would require vending machine operators that own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food products on a sign close to the article of food; the sign must be adjacent to the vending machine, but can be unattached. However, the sign must be in the "same field of vision as the food items," meaning visible at the same time as the food, its description name, price or selection button number.

The original statute would require calorie labels to appear next to each vended item individually, or its selection button. Some worry the new guidelines may not be as effective.

"It is essential that the nutrition information be easy to see and easy to use," the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote in a response to FDA. "Consumers are not used to getting nutrition information for vended items. It is likely they would not see a sign posted next to a vending machine, even if the font size for the calories is large."  

The law does not apply to vending machine operators that own or operate less than 20 machines, although they can opt in by voluntarily registering with FDA.

The legislation also requires restaurants and other foodservice venues to disclose calories on menus. Despite efforts, research shows menu labeling may not be enough to sway consumers to make healthier choices.   

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