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Calorie Counting at the Vending Machine

New regulations mandated by Obamacare could force vending machines to list calorie counts of its products.

With many people counting calories, the more information available about the food they eat, the better.

But how far should that go?

A new regulation taking effect in 2014 tests that limit.

One Snickers bar: 240 calories.

A bag of Doritos chips: 250 calories

One 20 oz. bottle of 7-Up: another 250 calories

If you didn't know all that before putting your money in the vending machine, you soon might.

Buried within the 20,000 pages of the Affordable Care Act's regulations is a requirement for vending machine companies.

"What they want is a calorie disclosure either on the machine, on the product itself or somewhere close to the machine on the poster board," said David Rich, general manager of ACME Vending.

ACME has been in St. Joseph since 1939 and is one of the largest vending machine companies in the region. ACME operates nearly 1,000 machines in 150 different locations regionally.

"We get new products all the time," Rich said. "If we do a poster, updating that material is going to be an ongoing issue. We're going to have to have somebody out there all the time, just updating this poster, taking that one down."

Rich says it could cost ACME $50,000 per year just to comply.

"We really have to look at our business in a different way," Rich said.

Depending on location, an ACME machine can collect anywhere from $25-$2,000 per week. Rich says they might have to re-prioritize who they serve.

"We might not be able to take care of those locations that are bringing in $25. You would never recoup the cost of what it would cost to do that."

Rich would like to see some alternative solution for customers in getting there nutritional information.

"If they really wanted to see what a Snickers bar is, they can get online somewhere and look it up instead of us being the ones to put it out there for them," Rich said. "Maybe we can give them a website they can go to."

Many believe people who want a candy bar aren't in the mood to be calorie counting.

"To some, I don't think it's a big benefit," Rich said."Me personally, I know if I'm going to buy a Snickers bar, there's going to be some calories involved."
Analysts say the new regulation could cost vending companies nationally $24 million per year.

Rich says his company, working with others in the industry, are looking to either delay or amend the regulation.

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