Obama Getting in the way of Snack Time?

We’ve all been there. The feeling hits around 2:30 PM during the workday and we find ourselves standing in front of the office vending machine searching for the snack of our liking. The next time you head for your snack your change won’t be the only thing you are counting. Due to President Obama’s healthcare overhaul law, you’ll be counting your calories as well. The overhaul law requires new labeling regulations for vending machines.  According to an article by the Associated Press, “Health Law to put Calorie Info on Vending Machines,” the Food and Drug Administration states roughly five million vending machines nation wide will be required to display caloric information in order to help consumers make “healthier” choices. How much is this new regulation going to cost? The FDA estimates the regulation will initially cost the vending machine industry $25.8 million and $24 million per year after that. The basis of this new regulation is that if 0.2 percent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week, the savings to the healthcare system would be at least that great, the FDA said.

The new rules apply to 10,800 companies that have operations of 20 or more machines. But according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association, almost three quarters of these companies only have three of fewer employees with dangerously low profit margins. All in all these companies’ first investments would be $2,400 plus $2,200 in annual costs. That is a large sum of money for a small business only pulling in a few thousand dollars a year.

“The money that would be spent to comply with this- there’s no return on investment,” said Eric Dell the director of governmental affairs for the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

Wondering what all of this is going to look like? Some of the companies who can afford it may use electronic displays to post the calories while the majority will be using signs to stick on machines. After reading about the new regulation, I wanted a visual and proceeded to go to our offices vending machine to take some inventory. Not only did I count the number of products in our vending machine but I also looked up the nutritional information for each snack item. Our vending machine, like most others, was relatively full containing 29 items but only seven of these items were less than 100 calories. I don’t know about everyone but if I’m hungry enough for a snack, seeing the calories isn’t going to stop my mid-day craving. Americans are going to continue to keep buying their snacks. The only difference now is dealing with an average of 29 eyesores and annoyances getting in the way.

It’s also important to point out that if the goal is to promote healthier eating habits it takes more than just reading how many calories are in certain foods.  Consumers need to appreciate the understanding of the nutrition label in order to enable them to make better choices in their personal food selection process. According to Fit Day.com the most important information on any food label is the serving size and number of servings in the package. The calories are the second most important element of a nutrition label because caloric intake is measured by the energy a person gets from a serving of food.  In fact, according to Fit Day.com, statistics show that portions and serving sizes have the greatest affect on weight loss and obesity.  The combination of serving size, calories, fat, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals is what makes a difference for healthy eating and fighting obesity.

The proposed rules would give companies a year to comply but owners of vending service companies remain very concerned about how they will be able to handle the new regulations. But in my opinion these rules won’t have the intended end result of a healthier and more well-balanced lifestyles for Americans. The vending machine labels will most likely end up being ineffective because just adding labels is skirting around the real issues and not tackling the more needed consumer education.