FDA Estimates Impact of Vending Machine Labeling

November 10/Washington/Health & Beauty Close-Up -- A notice published by the Food and Drug Administration in the November 5 Federal Register estimates that the nation's vending industry will need to spend 14 million hours annually to comply with proposed calorie disclosure regulations, National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) senior vice president of  Government Affairs Ned Monroe, CAE announced.

In discussing the FDA report Monroe said, "Our industry has always understood that consumers need access to product nutritional information, but requiring an industry to invest 14 million hours annually is absurd and sure to kill jobs. We are opposed to the colossal burden these regulations impose on our industry and this report just confirms what an enormous and unfair burden it truly is."

The calorie disclosure legislation was included as part of the federal healthcare reform legislation that was passed last March. The legislation requires that vending companies which operate 20 or more vending machines where caloric information is not available prior to purchase must "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".

According to Monroe, the vending industry has always recognized the importance of educating consumers about health and wellness, as evidenced by its national health and wellness program Balanced for Life. Said Monroe, "Over the past several years, the vending industry has helped address skyrocketing obesity rates by investing millions of dollars into its Balanced for Life program to educate consumers about the elements of a healthy diet and the importance of physical activity. In addition, as part of that work, we developed our highly acclaimed 'Fit Pick' nutrition rating system which clearly marks in the vending machine better-for-you items that meet strict nutritional guidelines. Considering that most products purchased out of a vending machine are the same ones that are well known and available in other retail channels everywhere, and not prepared menu items where consumers may be unaware of what the nutritional content is, we question whether this measure is necessary at all."

He concluded, "It's even more troubling that after reviewing the calculations in the report the 14-million-hour estimate might not even be enough. The implementation for this policy is completely wrong. It's obvious that the FDA needs to rethink this approach completely. In this economy where our small business members are struggling to survive, they can't afford to spend 14 million hours each year to comply with this new regulation."

More Information: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-28014.pdf

From the November 22, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition