So much has been said and written about President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, that it’s hard to believe the public might still be without a clue about an aspect of the law. But did you know that the law requires that calorie information be displayed on about 5 million vending machines nationally to help consumers make healthier choices before depositing their quarters to grab a candy bar or potato chips whose nutritional information is there, but not in plain sight?
The exact rules are still being determined, and there is a year deadline to comply even as vending companies, about 11,000 of them nationally, are complaining about the work and the cost, projected at about $26 million initially and $25 million annually after that. According to the National Automatic Merchandising Association, about three-fourths of those companies employ three or fewer people and their profit margins are slim.
But the Food and Drug Administration insists that the results, a healthier America, are worth the expense. The FDA says that if only one in 50 Americans consumes 100 fewer calories a week because of the additional information, that the savings in the health care industry will surpass the cost of providing the information.
Eric Dell, the vice president for government affairs for the National Automatic Merchandising Association, sees the legislation as a burden on mostly mom-and-pop operations.
“The money that would be spent to comply with this — there’s no return on the investment,” he said.
But Big Brother doesn’t stop there.
The FDA also is working on final rules for requiring restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post calorie information — establishment that, unlikes the vending machine companies, can probably handle the cost of tweaking the menu to add the information. That is already required of restaurants in some cities and is voluntarily done by some fast-food operations.
We would agree that — generally speaking — more information is a good thing for a consumer. But we wonder if the people most in need of this information, primarily America’s obese, are concerned enough to put down the fork or spoon to tabulate how many calories they are about the consume — and how it affects their health.
The legislation’s aim may be noble, but we are skeptical that it’s going to lighten this country’s weighty problem of obesity. We are, however, convinced it will be burdensome on thousands of Americans trying to make a living whose role in this big problem is very small.