New FDA Vending Machine Rules

Since April 2008, pursuant to New York City Health Code Section 81.50, all Starbucks (and many other restaurants) in New York City have been required to display the calories of each of the menu items. A subsequent study found that this mandatory calorie posting influenced consumers in NYC, causing average calories per transaction to drop by 6%. The study also found that calorie posting did not cause any significant change in Starbucks’ overall revenue.

Now, owners and operators of vending machines across the U.S. are next. Back in December of 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule entitled “Food Labeling: Calorie Labeling of Articles of Food in Vending Machines”. This rule is codified at 21 CFR 101.8, and requires vending machine operators who own or operate twenty (20) or more vending machines, or who voluntarily register with FDA to be covered, to declare calories for those vending machine foods for which the Nutrition Facts label cannot be examined before purchase or for which visible nutrition information is not otherwise provided at the point of purchase. According to the December 2014 final rule, covered vending machine operators must comply by December 1, 2016.

FDA Vending Machine Nutrition Rules Explained

In the Federal Register of August 1, 2016 (81 FR 50303), FDA issued another final rule entitled “Food Labeling; Calorie Labeling of Articles of Food in Vending Machines; Extension of Compliance Date.” This rule provides that the compliance date for type size front-of-pack labeling requirements and calorie disclosure requirements for certain gums, mints, and roll candy products in glass-front machines in the final rule published December 1, 2014 (79 FR 71259) is extended to July 26, 2018. The compliance date for all other requirements in the final rule (79 FR 71259) remains December 1, 2016.

On August 16, 2016, the FDA announced the availability of a Draft Guidance for the food industry, titled “Calorie Labeling of Articles of Food in Vending Machines.”  This Draft Guidance, like all guidance documents put out by the FDA, represents its current thinking on a topic, but does not create or confer any rights for or on any person and does not operate to bind FDA or the public. Manufactures are free to use alternative approaches, so long as the approach satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations.

The FDA has given you flexibility because the rule provides a range of methods to display the information. Regardless of the method, you must ensure that the calorie declarations are clear and conspicuous and placed prominently (21 CFR 101.8(c)(2)(ii)) so that customers can read the calories before purchasing the product. If yours is an electronic vending machine (i.e. a machine with a digital or electronic or LCD display, you may present the calorie information electronically, as long as the information is displayed BEFORE the customer buys the product (21 CFR  101.8(c)(2)(ii)(E)), and these electronic displays, like all calorie declarations, must be clear and conspicuous and placed prominently (near the article of food or the selection button) (21 CFR 101.8(c)(2)(ii)). You may also use a sign or sticker in, on, or adjacent to the vending machine to display the calories, provided the other requirements of 21 CFR 101.8(c) are met (see 21 CFR 101.8(c)(2)(ii)).  You may use one sign with calorie declarations for all of the food sold from the machine, or individual signs for each food item.  Alternatively, you may affix stickers with the calorie information to the vending machine.  You must place the sign or sticker near each article of food or selection button (see 21 CFR 101.8(c)(2)(ii)).


For more information on the new FDA vending rules, contact ALPS Innovations – the leader in custom vending, automated retailing, and self service kiosks.