Amidst all the kerfuffle over healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act is affecting one sector that no one really anticipated: American vending machines.
A provision of the ACA will require vending machine companies to post nutritional and calorie information on their machines in an effort to let consumers make more informed choices about the kind of cheesy corn snack they're about to buy.
According to the Associated Press, the new law applies to companies that operate more than 20 machines, which totals about 10,800 companies across the country. About 75 percent of those companies have three employees or fewer and are already dealing with low profit margins. The total cost to the vending machine industry will be just under $26 million initially, and then $24 million in upkeep each year after that. A representative for the National Automatic Merchandising Association told the AP that those costs will only hurt businesses since there's no return on the investment.
The Food and Drug Administration disagrees, though. According to them, if 0.02 percent of obese adults in the country consumed 100 fewer calories each week, the reduced strain on the health system would at least match the annual $24 million the law is expected to cost the vending machine industry.
It's unclear whether or not nutritional information on vending machines will knock out those 100 calories a week. Some cities have already started campaigns requiring restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus. Recent studies have shown that in New York one in six people took the calorie information into account while in Philadelphia the information had no impact on customers' choices.
The information seems to suggest that people who are concerned with healthy eating and paying attention to calories are already doing so, while people who aren't interested don't take the information into account. But Brian Ebel, assistant professor of New York University's department of population health and medicine, tells the AP that there's reason to think that the vending machine campaign will be at least marginally more successful than the city-wide restaurant ones.
Companies currently have a year to comply with the new regulations, but the National Automatic Merchandising Association is pushing for a two-year deadline.