What You Need To Know About The Final Calorie Disclosure Rule

Dec. 19, 2014

Emily Refermat, editor of Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com, asks NAMA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Eric Dell to explain some key points of the FDA’s final rule on calorie disclosure and what operators need to do to meet the requirements.

Emily: It’s the end of 2014 and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally provided the final requirements for how calories should be displayed for vending products after three years of consideration.

Most of the items in the nutrition labeling rule, required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, weren’t changed, but there were a few notable differences in the final version. Probably the most important, and a big win for the vending association, is the amount of time vending operators have to comply with the final rule.

Eric: The proposed rule had a one year compliance period in it and NAMA had suggested in their comments that the industry would need at least 2 years to comply with any final regulation after the regulation was released. We are thankful to the FDA that they honored our request that the compliance period be extended from one to two years. So we have a two year compliance window. That is a difference between the proposed rule and the final rule. 

Emily: The rule still affects operators that have 20 or more machines as opposed to locations, however NAMA was able to convince the FDA to offer different ways for operators to display calories.  Front of label calorie labels placed there by product manufacturers will meet the criteria as will touchscreens and other electronic media that offers the consumer a chance to view the calorie count before purchasing the product.

Eric: You can disclose it on the front of the machine, you can disclose it on a sign adjacent to the machine as long as its visible, at the same time as the purchase is taking place, to the consumer. You can also display it on front-of-pack packaging. You can also display it through electronic means. So there is some flexibility with how you can display the calorie disclosure as it comes to the final rule. 

Emily: As for physical signs, they can be stickers or posters as long as the information is clear, conspicuous and prominently placed.

Eric: The rule stated it must be in a type-size no smaller than the name of the food on the machine, the selection number or the price of the food as displayed on the vending machine, whichever is the smallest -- displayed with the same prominence, meaning the same color or a color at least as conspicuous as the color of the name or price of the food or selection number and set against the same contrasting background, or a background at least as contrasting as the background used for the item it is in close proximity to, for example, the name, selection number or price of the food item as displayed on the machine. when the calorie disclosure is on a sign adjacent to the vending machine, the calorie declaration must be in a type-size large enough to render it likely to be read and understood by the consumer under customary conditions of purchase and use; and in a type that is all black or one color on a white or neutral background that contrasts with the type color. Basically, in layman's terms, if someone is purchasing an item from your vending machine, you need to ensure the calorie disclosure on the sign adjacent to the vending machine is readable and recognizable and understood by your customer. 

Emily: It’s not just food, snack and soda vending machines that need to comply, but also hot beverage machines that vend coffee. Calories need to be displayed for the coffee, creamers, flavors and sweeteners also available in the machine.

While the FDA did not specially address enforcement of the rule, a sticker or sign with contact information for the vending operator is required on the machines as well. Operators have until December 1, 2016 to comply, but NAMA urges operators not to wait.

Eric: We're here to help. We want you to know what the rules are. We want you to know how to meet the rules. If you have questions, please call us. We are happy to reach out to the FDA to answer the questions you may have. 

Emily: At least one advantage to the FDA creating a final rule is that now operators in multiple states have one set of requirements to meet rather than multiple requirements. Operators needing help or wanting to verify their signage meets the new standard are encouraged to contact NAMA. For VMW TV, I’m Emily Refermat.