WASHINGTON -- A coalition of health organizations and a consumer watchdog group have submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration asking that bulk vending machines be included in proposed federal calorie-labeling requirements.
The group also pushed for calorie postings next to each product facing in a vending machine rather than a single list posted adjacent to machines, a solution proposed in the current rules.
The petitioners, which include the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, presented their requests to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on July 5, the final day for submitting public comments on the proposed rules.
The FDA drafted the regulations in April as part of federal healthcare reform legislation. That law requires anyone owning or operating 20 or more vending machines to disclose the caloric content of food and beverages sold through them. Separate rules apply to chain restaurants with 20 or more units. The FDA plans to issue its final rules by the end of 2011, and has proposed that they become effective six months later.
The coalition of health organizations and CSPI asked the FDA to include bulk vending machines in the rules, contending that excluding such equipment from the legislation would leave 20% of vended food unlabeled. (VT has reached out to the National Bulk Vendors Association for comment.)
The group also recommended that the FDA require vending operators to post calorie information right next to the product it describes rather than on an adjacent sign.
In its comments to FDA, the National Automatic Merchandising Association proposed several methods for giving consumers complete information about a product’s nutritional content that do not require affixing individual labels to machines. The vending association also emphasized that the wide variety of equipment types and designs in the field represents a compelling argument against mandating that signs conform to detailed specifications for shape, size and typography. NAMA also urged the agency to allow sufficient time for compliance.
The health organizations also recommended extending the definition of “restaurants and similar establishments” to include all venues that sell food, such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, casinos, stadiums, hotels and airlines. The law, as written, states that only businesses that dedicate more than 50% of their floor space to foodservice are required to post calorie information.
In June, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who championed the labeling legislation in 2010, also wrote to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking that the agency extend the range of establishments selling food that are to be included in the forthcoming regulations.