CHICAGO -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association has issued a legislative bulletin updating members on a nutritional labeling legislative proposal in Congress that concerns the vending industry.
The association has been following the Menu Education & Labeling Act (MEAL), introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and the Labeling Education & Nutrition Act (LEAN), sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
MEAL was drafted with the intent of closing what Sen. Harkin regards as a "loophole" in the 1990 Nutritional Labeling Education Act, which requires nutritional information on retail food packages but not for restaurant food.
On June 10, the three senators announced a compromise measure that combines key elements of MEAL and LEAN. The compromise is supported by the National Restaurant Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The NAMA bulletin explains that this compromise would require that certain nutritional information be posted not only on chain restaurant menus, but also on vending machines. The association said it is working to modify the relevant language.
As written, the proposal would require vending operators with more than 20 venders to post calorie information for the food and beverage products sold through a machine. Specifically, the legislation as it pertains to vending reads as follows:
"In the case of an article of food sold from a vending machine that ... does not permit a prospective purchaser to examine the Nutrition Facts Panel before purchasing the article or does not otherwise provide visible nutrition information at the point of purchase; and ... is operated by a person who is engaged in the business of owning or operating 20 or more vending machines, the vending machine operator shall provide a sign in close proximity to each article of food or the selection button that includes a clear and conspicuous statement disclosing the number of calories contained in the article."
NAMA adds that the proposal reportedly would preempt state and local legislation that might impose different requirements. According to the association's government affairs team, the new measure also would allow time for writing implementation rules, and vended products would only have to disclose calories, not the full "nutritional box" label information.
According to NAMA, the requirements set by the current language cannot be satisfied by posting nutritional information on a website, although the association is working to modify the language to enable operators to do so. If the law is enacted as presently written, calories must be publicly disclosed at the point of sale.
"We agree that these are valuable issues, and recognize the difficulty companies would have complying with a potential patchwork of differing local nutritional labeling regulations across the nation," the vending association's bulletin noted. "NAMA has been monitoring, reporting and working for several years on the federal and state nutritional disclosure issues. We are working now to modify the proposed vending language as set forth above. We are continuing our contacts with allies, industry partners and with members of Congress.
"NAMA and the industry are viewed favorably on the issue of obesity and nutrition, thanks to our very successful Fit Pick program," the bulletin added. "We anticipate this will provide us an opportunity to address implementation of the proposed legislation."
The next steps will be the consideration of the compromise measure in Senate and House committees, and then by the full Senate and House of Representatives. NAMA asked its members to stand ready to assist the association by making personal contact on the issue with their elected officials in Congress in the coming weeks
NAMA Southern Office Moves
ALPHARETTA, GA -- The southern office of the National Automatic Merchandising Association has relocated from Marietta, GA, to new facilities here. The address now is 2300 Lakeview Pky., Ste. 700, Alpharetta, GA 30004. The new telephone numbers are (678) 916-3852 (voice) and (678) 916-3853 (fax). Mary Lou Monaghan is manager of the Southern Office.