Vending Machines Could Soon Display Calorie Info For Your Snacks

Illustration for article titled Vending Machines Could Soon Display Calorie Info For Your Snacks

Debating over that bag of Funyuns or that Zagnut bar you think has been in the vending machine since 1998? A new requirement to include calorie information on said machines could help you make up your mind.

Under new labeling regulations that are part of the OBAMACARE SOCIALIST NANNY STATE NIGHTMARE or as we sane people call it, health care reform, vending machines would be required to display calorie counts:

Requiring calorie information to be displayed on roughly 5 million vending machines nationwide will help consumers make healthier choices, says the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to release final rules early next year. It estimates the cost to the vending machine industry at $25.8 million initially and $24 million per year after that, but says if just .02 percent 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 Automatic Merchandising Association. An initial investment of $2,400 plus $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 affairs.


Of course, some industry groups would rather see an extended deadline and have asked for that and more. One vendor, Carol Brennan, owner of Brennan Food Vending Services in Londonderry, called the new requirements flat-out "outrageous." Brennan said the move is going to force her to have to limit selections offered in each machine, because her small staff would be too bogged down updating calorie the info for the hundreds of machines her company owns.

Brennan also doubts that consumers will benefit from the calorie information. "How many people have not read a label on a candy bar?" she said. "If you're concerned about it, you've already read it for years."

Or, people might finally start paying attention to the information when it's prominently displayed and start thinking about the choices they are making with their food rather than thinking its NBD because it's shoved on the back of a product packaging! Who knows!

We could be seeing more calorie labeling laws in other areas as well. The FDA may soon require certain chains to publicly display their calorie info, but that's something some cities and some fast-food venues have opted to do already.


OK, so does increasing the visibility of calorie information really work? One study, conducted in New York found that only one in six customers paid attention to the info, but when they did, they ordered something with fewer calories. However, a study in Philadelphia found there was absolutely no difference in what people ordered.

"There is probably a subset of people for whom this information works, who report using it to purchase 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.

Ebel said he wouldn't be surprised if the vending machine labels end up being equally ineffective, but he said it's possible that consumers might pay more attention to them for a couple of reasons. In some locations, a vending machine might be the only food option, he said. And reading a list of calorie counts on a machine will be less overwhelming than scanning a large menu at a fast-food restaurant with other customers waiting in line behind you, he said.


You might start seeing the calorie information digitally on existing vending machines with such capability, or vendors may just opt to place a sign on the front of each machine. As long as they don't put it over my sign that says "TO THE JERKFACE WHO JUST BOUGHT THE LAST BAG OF CHEEZ-ITS, THIS MEANS WAR. I KNOW WHERE YOU PARK YOUR CAR," I guess I'm cool with that.

Image via Shutterstock.

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Honestly, I really like the calorie displays at restaurants. For one thing, if I'm throwing caution and good sense to the wind and know I want that double cheeseburger, it doesn't really matter. On the other hand, though, if I'm having a casual lunch at Panera where I don't want to spend my entire calorie allotment on one meal, I can look up and see, holy shit the highest calorie soup on the menu is the tomato soup?! The broccoli cheese isn't actually that bad? Sign me up!

So basically, if it's a choice between two things I equally would have gotten and I realize one is WAY higher in calories, I'll skip it. And I like that information.