Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Vending machines offering snacks and beverages have an awful reputation in providing the so called junk foods because most of them stock high calorie, high fat, high sugar, high salt containing products with potential for harming one's health. These snacks are supposed to re-charge the body between meals and therefore not considered very harmful as the quantity consumed is some what limited compared to the meals. But over the years unhealthy foods have been able to sneak into the main stream category affecting the overall health of the population. With the advent of modern packaging technology many foods have attained sufficient ruggedness to be vended through machines located in any place. Under attack from health activists, an image make over was necessary for this sector and the same seems to be coming if latest trend is any indication.

"Much of the demand for more healthful vending machine fare has come from schools, according to Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Over the last decade, states have taken a variety of steps to improve school nutrition policies, she says. They've banned sodas, restricted sales of sweetened sports drinks and limited the amount of sugar and saturated fat in school snacks. Some states have set nutritional standards for food sold on campuses — in school stores, in cafeterias and even in vending machines. In Alabama, individual vending machine snacks must provide no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates, 360 milligrams of sodium or 10% of the 65 grams of fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a child or teen consuming 2,000 calories a day; snacks also have to provide at least 5% of the daily value of at least one of the following: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron,calcium or fiber. In Connecticut and District of Columbia schools, juice drinks in vending machines must contain 100% fruit or vegetable juice and can't have added sugars. In Kentucky, snacks must have no more than 300 milligrams of sodium and no more than 14 grams of sugar (unless they're fresh fruits). And in California, snacks, including those in vending machines, can't derive more than 35% of their calories from fat (including a limit of 10% of calories from saturated fats) or contain more than 35% sugar. Elementary school snacks can't exceed 150 calories, and middle and high school snacks can't exceed 250 calories. The new rules have prompted a number of entrepreneurs to launch healthful-vending-machine companies in the last couple of years, and many say business is booming".

Whether the vending machines or the fast food outlets or regular restaurants, consumers' choice of foods is determined by two factors. First the availability of foods liked by the consumer and second the food consumption habits of those patronizing such machines. After all vending machines are just convenient outlets from where one can get quick service without the regular hassle of going through a billing system and most customers will accept foods which are reasonably good in taste. It is up to the vendors to ensure that their machines are stocked with good foods with proper health credentials. State intervention is called for when these vendors ignore their social responsibility and peddle wrong foods with harmful health contributes. The initiatives taken by some states in the US in evolving mandatory nutrition standards for those foods eligible to be offered in vending machines are justified because the industry failed to refrain itself from peddling unhealthy products.


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