vending machines

New labeling regulations under President Obama’s health care overhaul law will require calorie information to be displayed on vending machines.

Expected to become law early next year, the regulation will require approximately 5 million vending machines nationwide to list the calorie count of items in the machines within a year so that the calories are visible before the customer makes a purchase.

The law will cost the vending machine industry an estimated $25.8 million initially and $24 million per year after that, but, the FDA says that “if just .02 percent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week, the savings to the health care system would be at least that great,” reports AP.

More than 10,000 U.S. companies will be affected by the rule, and many of those companies are reportedly small operations. “Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association,” notes AP. “An initial investment of $2,400 plus $2,200 in annual costs is a lot of money for a small company that only clears a few thousand dollars a year, said Eric Dell, the group’s vice president for government affairs.”

And the vending machine operators are concerned that their investment yields them no financial return, and may even hurt their business if consumers opt out of the vending machine purchases based on the calories of snack items.

While some vending machines have started stocking healthier options, they’re still a go-to source for high calorie/low nutrition value foods including sodas, chips and candy bars. But, notes AP, the vending machine industry group launched its “Fit Pick” system in 2005, “which includes stickers placed in front of products that meet healthy guidelines for fat and sugar content. The program is used by nearly 14,000 businesses, schools and government agencies, as well as all branches of the military.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: dan taylor