LOUISVILLE, KY -- The Vend Marketing Institute, a group representing some of the nation's most prominent vending companies, called on Congress to drop language that would require vending companies to disclose the caloric content of vended food and beverage products prior to the point of sale. The requirement is included in both the House and Senate versions of the healthcare reform legislation currently being debated in Congress, and would apply to any business which owns or operates 20 or more vending machines. VMI reached out to lawmakers on Dec. 23.
VMI executive director Chris Stave said the organization not only supports the idea of nutrition disclosure, but already has a successful program in place that it considers to be much more comprehensive than the one being considered in Congress.
Four years ago, recognizing the importance of working to educate consumers about the nutrition content in the products they were purchasing, VMI teamed up with registered dietitian Carmen Gorniak to create "The Right Choice...for a Healthier You!" nutrition program. "It identifies products in the vending machine that meet specific nutrition guidelines that reflect the USDA's Food Pyramid principles of balance and portion control, and is a proven success," said Stave. "It's also much more informative than the proposals being considered on Capitol Hill."
According to VMI, the program has been "tremendously successful," and is used at more than 5,000 client locations serviced by members of VMI. The Right Choice guidelines list appropriate levels for caloric content, sodium, cholesterol, fat including saturated and trans fats, as well as sugar. Any item meeting the established dietary guidelines qualifies for the program's heart-and-apple symbol, which is clearly displayed to ensure consumers can identify qualifying products before they make a purchase.
"While calorie counts are important when it comes to overall health, there are many more factors that come into play when making a vending decision," said Gorniak. "A product might be low in calories but high in fat, cholesterol or contain trans fats, all of which have a large impact on a person's health. VMI challenges the proposal Congress is considering. Our program truly gives consumers the information they need to make an informed choice when it comes to their own personal health."
Stave added that not only is the proposal being considered on Capitol Hill ineffective, but it would place an enormous financial hardship on the industry as vending operators work to refit machines to comply with the requirement. "The industry estimates that it will cost $56.6 million in the first year alone for us to configure our machines to meet this regulation. It would surely force vending operators to cut jobs, clearly not what we need in today's tough economy," he said.
VMI was established in 2003 to develop joint marketing and purchasing programs between the network of operating companies and major vend product manufacturers. Affiliates generate about $500 million in annual sales, primarily from 75,000 vending machines located in more than 16,000 business and industry locations.