Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 1st 2014 Contents A32
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Office workers in search of snacks will be count-
ing calories along with their change under new
labeling regulations for vending machines included
in President Barack Obama s health care overhaul
Requiring calorie information to be displayed on
roughly five million vending machines nationwide
will help consumers make healthier choices, says
the Food and Drug Administration, which is expect-
ed to release final rules early next year.
It estimates the cost to the vending machine
industry at US$25.8 million initially and US$24
million per year after that, but says if just .02 per
cent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week,
the savings to the health care system would be at
least that great.
The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies
that operate 20 or more machines.
Nearly three quarters of those companies have
three or fewer employees, and their profit margin
is extremely low, according to the National Auto-
matic Merchandising Association.
An initial investment of US$2,400 plus US$2,200
in annual costs is a lot of money for a small company
that only clears a few thousand dollars a year, said
Eric Dell, the group s vice president for government
"The money that would be spent to comply with
this---there s no return on the investment," he said.
While the proposed rules would give companies
a year to comply, the industry group has suggested
a two-year deadline and is urging the government
to allow as much flexibility as possible in imple-
menting the rules. Some companies may use elec-
tronic displays to post calorie counts while others
may opt for signs stuck to the machines.
Carol Brennan, who owns Brennan Food Vending
Services in Londonderry, said she doesn t yet know
how she will handle the regulations, but she doesn t
She has five employees servicing hundreds of
machines and says she ll be forced to limit the
items offered so her employees don t spend too
much time updating the calorie counts.
"It is outrageous for us to have to do this on all
our equipment. How many people have not read
a label on a candy bar?" she said. "If you re con-
cerned about it, you ve already read it for years."
But Kim Gould, 58, of Seattle, said he doesn t
read the labels even after his choice pops out of
a vending machine, so having access to that infor-
mation wouldn t change what he buys.
"People have their reasons they eat well or eat
poorly," Gould said.
Standing with his 12-year-old daughter near a
vending machine in a medical clinic where he
bought some drinks last week, he said he only
makes purchases at the machines when he s hungry
and has no other options.
"How do we know people who are buying candy
in the vending machines aren t eating healthy 99
per cent of the time?" he added.
As for the new labels, Gould said he wasn t sure
what the point would be, and that they would just
be "nibbling around the edges of the problem."
The FDA also is working on final rules for requir-
ing restaurant chains with more than 20 locations
to post calories information, something some cities
already mandate and some large fast-food operations
have begun doing voluntarily.
A 2011 study in New York found that only one
in six customers looked at the information, but
those who did generally ordered about 100 fewer
calories. A more recent study in Philadelphia found
no difference in calories purchased after the city s
labeling law took effect.
"There is probably a subset of people for whom
this information works, who report using it to pur-
chase fewer calories, but what we re not seeing
though is a change at an overall population level
in the number of calories consumed," said Brian
Ebel, the study s author and an assistant professor
at New York University s department of population
health and medicine. (Reuters)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Health law to put calorie
info on vending machines
Americans in search of snacks will be counting calories along with their change
under new labeling regulations for vending machines included in President
Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. AP PHOTO
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