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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 1, January 2014, Posted On: 12/31/2013

Vending Machine Labeling Makes Headlines As Final FDA Rules Loom

Emily Jed
TAGS: vending machine labeling rules, calorie counts, vending snacks, Food and Drug Administration, FDA calorie-labeling rules for vending machines, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Eric Dell

NEW YORK CITY -- The Food and Drug Administration's final calorie-labeling rules for vending machines are expected early in the new year, and major media outlets have begun blitzing the news in full force this week. Many of the news reports focus on the financial burden that complying with the regulations will place on vending operators.

The regulations, long anticipated by the industry, are included in President Obama's healthcare overhaul. The FDA estimates 5 million vending machines would require calorie information to be displayed, costing the vending industry around $25.8 million initially and $24 million a year after that that. The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines.

A widely cited article by the Associated Press reports that the National Automatic Merchandising Association has estimated that nearly three-quarters of the affected operating companies have three or fewer employees, and that their profit margins are extremely low. (Vending Times' recent Census of the Industry puts that figure at 70%.)

The AP also quoted NAMA vice-president of government affairs Eric Dell as saying that an initial investment of $2,400 and additional $2,200 in annual costs is a big expense for a small company with only a few thousand dollars in profit a year.

The news agency also pointed out that NAMA launched its Fit Pick program nine years ago to help consumers identify "healthier" foods and that it's used by nearly 14,000 businesses, schools and government agencies, as well as all branches of the military.

The FDA has said the proposed rules will allow a year for the industry to comply. NAMA, however, has suggested a two-year grace period and has asked the agency to allow as much flexibility as possible in implementing the rules.

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