From Vending Market Watch: Massachusetts Vendor Publicly Objects Calorie Disclosure Act By: Sandy Meindersma Correspondent
WORCESTER — Those M&Ms in the break room vending machine are soon to be a part of the Affordable Care Act, a requirement that has vendors raising concerns about the cost and practicality of complying with the law.
In addition to mandating affordable health insurance for all Americans, the 20,000 pages of the Affordable Care Act include provisions that require calorie counts for all snacks and candies sold to be available for all purchasers to see.
The federal Food and Drug Administration is in the process of drafting regulations regarding calorie counts for food sold in vending machines; the regulations will stipulate exactly what information will be required and how it must be provided.
“The general goal of vending machine labeling is to make calorie information available to consumers in a direct and accessible manner to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices,” said Theresa Eisenman, a spokesperson for the FDA.
Similar requirements for food sold in restaurants are also part of the Affordable Care Act.
Ms. Eisenman said the regulations for vending machines are being drafted and are expected to be released sometime this year, with a one year implementation period.
“We received approximately 250 comments on the vending machine labeling proposed rule and are considering them in the final rule,” she said. “FDA proposed that the vending machine labeling final rule would become effective one year from the date of the final rule’s publication. The final rule will specify the effective date.”
Michael Grandone, owner of IT Vending Co. in Worcester, is objecting to the regulations, saying the requirement is impractical, given that vendors regularly change their product mix.
“There is so much variety out there that it would be impossible to keep up,” he said. “Not all potato chips are 120 calories.
“If we make a sign listing the calorie counts, it will take up the most of the front of the machine, and people will tear it down. There is electronic technology available, but it would require someone to stand there and wait until the information scrolls across. It’s just not realistic.”
Mr. Grandone said that he has about 115 candy and snack machines and 35 soda machines in businesses and schools throughout Central Massachusetts.
“We have been following the John Stalker Institute guidelines for several years now,” he said. “Especially in schools, it’s not that they don’t want to have Doritos, but they want to have a smaller portion.”
The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University specifies guidelines for food served or available in schools, including calorie recommendations, portion sizes, sugar and sodium limits, as well as specifications for whole grains that prohibit artificial sweeteners and trans-fats.
Jim Kelly, president of P&J’s Vending in Hopkinton and treasurer of the Massachusetts Vending Association, said the state association is working with the National Automatic Merchandising Association in an attempt to minimize the cost impact of the new regulations.
“This will be an enormous burden for our members,” Mr. Kelly said. “The additional costs involved could cause operators to re-assess current and future placement of vending equipment, and ultimately, the cost will have to be passed along to the consumer.”