In the past, vending machines have been notorious for containing unhealthy snack foods or, at best, stale sandwiches. But thanks to the increased demand for healthy food on-the-go, vending machines containing fresh food have been popping up around the United States. Delicious salads, wraps, veggies and hummus, and sandwiches (not the stale kind!) are now readily available in many workplaces and schools.
If you are a fresh food vending machine operator with 20 or more vending machines, you’re likely aware of the May 7, 2018 compliance date for providing calorie and nutrition information for the items in your machine. But for those of you who haven’t gotten around to completing your calorie labeling, and for smaller vending machine companies who are opting into labeling compliance, this guide to vending machine label requirements will give you the information you need to comply with the FDA’s guidelines.
FDA Guidelines for Vending Machine Label Requirements
The FDA requires vending machine operators to provide calorie counts for the products they dispense because the nature of vending machines doesn’t really allow customers to see the nutrition facts panels of the products inside. As such, they may end up making a decision that isn’t compatible with their health goals or dietary needs. This is a problem in an age where the FDA is trying to help Americans make informed choices about what they eat.
The information the FDA wants customers to be able to see before they purchase an item from a vending machine includes:
- Serving size
- Servings per container
This information must be easily available for customers to view before they make their purchase. It can either be presented on a sign adjacent to the vending machine or visible on the food items themselves.
If calorie and nutrition information is visible on the food labels (Front of Pack labeling) and complies with the FDA’s guidance for vending machine labeling, then you don’t have to worry about providing more information. Just be sure that before July 26th, 2018, this FOP information is an appropriate size that allows customers to easily read the information (at least 50% of the size of the largest print on the food package).
Using Online Nutrition Analysis for Vending Machine Labels
If you are opting for including a sign adjacent to your vending machine that contains the above information and you don’t have the calorie counts for your items because they are custom made, then you will need to perform nutrition analysis. Online nutrition analysis software is a great tool for vending machine compliance if your vending machine is stocked with food items that your company custom makes, such as fresh salads, wraps, and sandwiches. With online nutrition analysis software, you can quickly and easily obtain the nutrition information you need with the following steps:
- Enter the recipe, serving size, and servings per container of your food product using the USDA-compiled database of ingredients. If your product is a single ingredient product (like an apple), simply enter that ingredient.
- The FDA-compliant nutrition facts panel will instantly generate.
- Download and print the panel to use on the individual items in the vending machine and use the generated information to create a sign to place adjacent to your vending machines.
Remember, your items will each need nutrition facts panels and a sign denoting calories, serving size, and servings per container, unless you are using FOP labeling. The advantage to using signs and nutrition facts panels is that customers don’t have to be directly in front of the vending machine in order to see the information. This could mean faster moving lines and an improved flow of customers to your vending machines.
What’s great about online nutrition analysis software is that if you are unhappy with the calorie amount, you can easily tweak your recipe and product and your results will instantly adjust accordingly. And if you run into trouble or have questions, reach out to an expert food labeling consultant for help. That way, you can get your fresh food vending machines ready for compliance as soon as possible.
LabelCalc is an industry-leading online nutrition analysis software that helps professionals create FDA-compliant nutrition facts panels quickly, easily, and affordably. To learn more, contact us today.