Rage Against the Vending Machine: Soda Companies to Post Calorie Counts

Beverage makers try to stay one step ahead of the law.

Do you know how many calories are in that can? Surprise: Soda companies want to tell you. (Photo:Bloomberg/Getty Images)
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Sugary soda, your number is up.

Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper—the nation’s big three soft-drink makers—are introducing new vending machines that prominently display calorie counts, reports the Associated Press. The machines will start appearing in city buildings in Chicago and San Antonio next year before being hauled out nationwide.

The beverage industry is spinning the move as a response to consumer demand. “We have market research that says consumers really like this—they like choice, they like the ability to make choices,” Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, tells AP.

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Whether the American public really has a burning desire to know just how many calories they’re guzzling is open to debate. Industry watchers and public health advocates say this probably isn’t a shining example of corporate altruism.

“They’re seeing the writing on the wall and want to say that it’s corporate responsibility,” Mike Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, tells AP, though he applauds the effort nevertheless.

Writing on the wall, indeed. McDonald’s already announced it will start posting calorie information on its menus.

The new number crunch comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s healthcare law, which will require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations and vending machine operators with more than 20 machines to post calorie information, reports AP.

Soda may be America’s unofficial national beverage, but all in all, the soda industry has been taking a beating of late as concerns about the mass consumption of empty calories and the rise in the nation’s obesity rate swell. New York has now banned the sale of soda and other sugar-saturated drinks over 16 ounces. Soda sales are slumping. And just last month, a trio of studies in the New England Journal of Medicine all linked the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to weight gain, including a massive Harvard study that found a particularly troubling correlation between drinking soda and weight for those already genetically predisposed to obesity.

Maybe it’s time for a new national beverage: water.

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