Tuesday October 9, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) -- As criticism over sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that will put calorie counts right at your fingertips.

The counts will be on the buttons of the machines, which will also feature small posted messages reminding the thirsty that they can choose a low-calorie drink. The vending machines will launch in Chicago and San Antonio municipal buildings in 2013 before appearing nationally.

The move comes ahead of a new regulation that would require restaurant chains and vending machines to post calorie information as early as next year, although the timetable and specifics for complying with that requirement are still being worked out.

The U.S. Food and Drug Adminis tration, for example has proposed a less-stringent amendment that would allow vending machines to post the information on a poster on the side of the machine, notes Mike Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety and nutrition.

The industry’s announcement Monday shows posting calories right on machines is perfectly feasible, he said.

"This would be an important step forward," Jacobson said. "Currently, people don’t think about calories when they go up to a vending machine. Having the calories right on the button will help them make choices."

The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola Co.


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, PepsiCo Inc. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., said the machines will increase the availability of lower-calorie drinks and remind customers to consider alternatives with messages such as "Try a Low-Calorie Beverage."

"We have market research that says consumers really like this -- they like choice, they like the ability to make choices," said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association.