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Buried ObamaCare Mandate Befuddles Enforcers

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist A little known mandate buried in the new healthcare reform bill that requires restaurants and vending machine operators to disclose calorie counts on the foods they sell is confusing everyone involved, including the federal agency in charge of enforcing it. CNSNews.com is reporting that Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) orders companies with 20 or more restaurants to disclose nutrition content on their standard menu items. Vending machine operators must “provide a sign in close proximity to each article of food or the selection button that includes a clear and conspicuous statement disclosing the number of calories contained in the article.”   Restaurants are able to comply with the law, which went into effect the day the President signed the bill  into law on March 23, 2010, but vending machine operators are having a much more difficult time because the FDA has failed to provide them with any detailed guidance on how to bring their machines into compliance. Industry insider, Neal Monroe, vice president of government affairs at the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) which represents vending machine operators, said he was told by the FDA that they were “still trying to get their arms around” how to implement the provisions of the law.  The resulting confusion is a problem for people in his industry.   “There’s definitely confusion and a little bit of frustration from our folks who want to comply with the regulations,” Monroe told CNSNews.com. “They want to provide this information to their customers.” In addition to experiencing frustration over how to implement the new law, vending machine operators have the additional worry about how their small businesses will survive the economic hit that will be imposed by the new law. “To give you an idea of the economic impact, a vending operator who has just 20 machines is making less than $4,000 a year in profit,” Monroe said.  “And these regulations cost between $3 and $100 per machine.”   In other words, this new law could be an enormous economic hit, he said. “What we are concerned about is the impact of the regulation on our small business people in this economic situation,” said Monroe. “The climate is pretty tough. As unemployment increases, there are fewer workers in the factories, there are fewer people buying snacks, so this is a—a pretty tough economic hit.”   Meanwhile, the FDA is still trying to figure out how to enforce the law. During a conference call with industry leaders last week, the agency said they were hoping to provide guidance by March of next year, a full year after the law went into effect.  © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®  http://www.womenofgrace.com

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