CHICAGO -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association is working with congressional staff members and counsel to establish guidance on what vending operators must do to comply with the healthcare reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.
The legislation requires that an operator of 20 or more vending machines must, if the machine does not allow patrons to read the nutrition facts panel on the products it sells, or does not otherwise provide visible nutrition information at the point of purchase, "provide a sign in close proximity to each article of food or the selection button" that discloses the number of calories furnished by the item.
Ned Monroe, NAMA senior vice-president of government affairs, noted that the Food & Drug Administration now must request and consider comments and then propose specific regulations for implementing the new requirements to Congress within a year. "NAMA will have a seat at the table," he observed.
The association is seeking rules that provide flexibility in communicating caloric content, including potential support for one "menu" that would apply to a bank of machines. It also is asking for implementation time, to hold down the expense of compliance, and also for legal protection against mistakes made in stocking a machine.
Operators may be asked about the requirement, he noted; since the language in the bill is vague, guidance is hypothetical. Prior to the adoption and publication of FDA's regulation, he added, the best place to seek guidance might be the restaurant menu labeling discussion in the same section of the law (Sec. 4205, "Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants").
Monroe promises to keep NAMA members informed as the rule-writing process gets under way. The topic also will be discussed at the upcoming NAMA OneShow in Chicago, April 28-30.