FDA wants clearer calorie counts on vending machine snacks

Photo: Brian Niles (iStock)

Who among us has not been desperate enough to resort to eating lunch or dinner out of a vending machine? Not those fancy newfangled vending machines that make you a salad or a smoothie or brew you a cappuccino while you wait, but the classic kind with chips and candy bars, where inevitably a wrapper will get caught on one of those coils and you’ll either have to scrounge a few more quarters to get the coil to turn again or take your life in your hands and shake the machine. (Darwin Awards have been won this way.)

The FDA decided last Friday that it would do its part to preserve the lives of Americans who eat out of vending machines. Market Watch reports, “Calorie labels’ type size should be at least 150% the minimum-required size of the net-weight information displayed on the item’s actual packaging.” In other words, you might be tempted to get a Snickers bar until you see that it’s 215 calories, and you’ll be shamed into the 140-calorie bag of Sun Chips instead.

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Will this work? Market Watch is skeptical, citing a 5,000-person study of the effect of calorie counts on restaurant menus by researchers at Cornell and Louisiana State Universities: Over three years, people lost, on average, just a single pound. Another study by researchers at Georgia State and Columbia Universities found that published calorie counts helped diners identify the low-calorie options and then avoid them.

Still, now you can’t accuse the FDA of not doing its part to improve vending machine cuisine. And that’s really all it wants you to know.

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.