BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Sweeping changes to the nation’s health care will soon impact the snacks you buy from vending machines. The Food & Drug Administration finalizes guidelines on how calorie information will be displayed.

Tim Williams has more.

You can soon count your calories as you count your change.

New labeling regulations under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law will require vendors to post calorie information.

“The changes require all vending companies to display nutritional information on the fronts of all vending equipment,” said vendor Mike Heyman.

New rules will apply to the nearly 11,000 companies operating 20 or more machines. But because many of those are small businesses with few employees, there are major concerns.

“You’re constantly updating, so there’s a maintenance cost on that, and it’s going to get passed down ultimately to the consumer,” Heyman said.

While health care advocates argue the information will lead to better food choices, some skeptics contend that the unhealthy nature of vending purchases means consumers won’t benefit from calorie information at all.

“I don’t think the nutritional requirements are going to change anybody’s eating habits,” Heyman said.

In the short run, it will not be small change for small businesses to fit their machines to comply with federal guidelines. It’s not a label, but software needed to display the information.

“It’s approximately about $500. And if you take that times your 200 machines or so, you’re at $150,000,” Heyman said.

The FDA says savings to the health care system would be at least that if obese adults ate 100 fewer calories each week.

The law will affect roughly five million vending machines nationwide. The FDA is expected to release its final rules in the coming weeks.

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Tim Williams

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