Montgomery County Vending Machines Could Go on a Diet

A bill before the Montgomery County Council would require vending machines on county property to follow strict nutritional guidelines, with most of the snacks sold in them meeting limits on calories, trans fat and sodium.

The proposed rules are a variation on rules which already exist for vending machines in Montgomery County Public Schools. These rules would apply to vending machines in county owned buildings such as courts, libraries and county offices. 

That's between 150 and 200 vending machines, the county said.

The vending-machine snacks must have 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per package.

Drinks would have to be less than 250 calories and less than 20 ounces.

In addition, at least half of the snacks sold must contain no more than 200 calories per package and have less than 35 percent of total calories from fat.

And the healthy snacks would have to be placed where they have the "highest selling potential," said Councilman Craig Rice -- that is, at eye level.

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County Council will vote on the measure April 18, and it is expected to pass. Sugar-Free Kids Maryland helped write the bill.

"I think they should add more healthy options to vending machines," said a woman who identified herself only as Melissa. "It's annoying when you're on the run and you can't get good options. You usually only get chocolate bars and stuff like that."

The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association said the bill isn't needed. "We have voluntarily placed clear calorie labels on the front of all of our bottles, cans and packs," the group said in a statement. "We are placing calorie awareness signs on vending machines, fountain equipment and retail coolers in Maryland." (Click here to read the entire statement.)

Those rules would apply to new contracts the county enters. Councilman George Leventhal said most of the county-owned vending machines already meet the proposed healthy snacks requirements because the county has negotiated contracts this way with vendors for years.

After July 1, 2018, 65 percent of vending-machine snacks would be required to meet the health guidelines.

Statement by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association

"The beverage industry and Montgomery County are already doing an extraordinary job providing beverage choices for vending machines," said Ellen Valentino, executive vice president of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Beverage Association.

"Our members are already doing their part providing many options for consumers that include waters, juices and low and no-calorie beverages," Valentino said. "We have voluntarily placed clear calorie labels on the front of all of our bottles, cans and packs. We are placing calorie awareness signs on vending machines, fountain equipment and retail coolers in Maryland and other states.

"The good news is we are providing consumers with more choices, smaller portion sizes and fewer calories than ever before so that they can make the choice that is best for them and their families," Valentino said.

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