FDA Issues Proposed Labeling Requirements For Vending Machines

Posted On: 4/2/2011

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WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration on April 1 issued two proposed regulations regarding calorie labeling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines.

The proposed rules for vending machines were originally scheduled for release on March 23. | SEE STORY

The menu-labeling rule proposed on April 1 applies to chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments. They call for listing calories in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.

A companion rule proposes calorie posting for food sold in vending machines.

The proposals have a 60-day comment period. The FDA said it hopes to issue the final rules by the end of 2011 and proposes they become effective six months later.

The administration wants vending companies that operate 20 or more machines to 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 -- unless certain nutrition information is already visible on individual packages of food inside a machine.

By the FDA's own estimate, it will take vending machine owners 14 million hours a year to comply with the calorie law to display information for every item they sell. | SEE STORY

See Fox News interview with Wittern Group president Heidi Chico, who explains how the regulation could severely impact vending and cost the industry jobs.

The National Automatic Merchandising Association is lobbying Congress and the administration to rethink the effect of imposing new regulatory burdens unrelated to public safety and health on small business at a time when the economy is struggling to recover.

The FDA is also suggesting restaurants be required to include a reference point of appropriate caloric intake for consumers. Posting a phrase similar to: "A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary," would "help the public understand the significance of the calorie information provided," the administration's proposal said.

Full nutritional information, such as fat, cholesterol and sodium content, would be available upon request under the FDA's proposal.

Many chain restaurants, especially in the fast-food sector, already post nutritional information in stores and online. However, most establishments in the casual and upscale dining sector do not, so the rules will likely hit them harder.

The FDA is recommending that establishments whose primary business is not to sell food, such as movie theaters, airplanes or bowling alleys, be excluded from the requirements.

Under the FDA rules, state and local governments will not have the authority to impose any different nutrition labeling requirements for food sold in restaurants and through vending machines covered by the federal requirements. It also said that restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machine operations that are not covered by the federal requirements could voluntarily register to be covered.

The FDA is accepting commentary on the proposed rules for vending machines and restaurants. Go to http://www.regulations.gov to submit a comment.

For more information on commenting, visit http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx.