Opinion

Posting calorie info on machines a good step

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — While most of the attention related to the Affordable Care Act has been focused on a troubled website, policy cancellations and some sticker shock regarding premiums, another aspect of it has the attention of the vending machine industry.

That’s because part of the health care reform law, also known as Obamacare, requires vending machines to have labels spelling out the calorie content of food items offered inside them. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to release final rules for the requirement early this year.

The rationale behind the requirement is to better inform consumers in hopes they will make healthier decisions when purchasing food from the machines. That idea makes sense considering about a third of the nation’s adults and nearly a fifth of its youth are considered obese.

The new regulation will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines, and altogether an estimated 5 million machines nationwide would fall under it, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The vending machine industry, understandably, is not happy with the new requirement, saying it will mean more expenses for companies in the food vending business. The FDA acknowledges that; it estimates that complying with the requirement will cost the industry $25.8 million initially to place the labels on the machines and $24 million per year after that.

The agency, and the critics of the new regulation, both point out that having the calorie information posted on machines may not alter the buying choices that many consumers make. However, the FDA argues that if only .02 percent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week as a result of taking into account the information, savings in health care costs would at least match the costs to the industry…

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