County Council Passes ‘Healthy Vending Choices’ Legislation

Update, Tuesday: The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the “Healthy Vending Choices” bill. The measure requires that half the items for sale in vending machines on county property to meet the American Heart Association’s recommended nutrition standards for sugar and salt.

Original post: An organization that wants healthier food more widely available in government vending machines is faulting a proposal by the Montgomery Parks to increase the amount of calories for 20-ounce drinks, from 250 calories to 290 calories.

“On the surface, it might be, ‘What’s the big deal?’” said Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland. “We’re just saying that’s enough sugar.”

In an email, Melissa Chotiner, media relations manager for Montgomery Parks, wrote in an email that the parks commission agreed to the change “to accommodate sports drinks in vending machines since we host many sporting events and have places where people engage in intense physical activity.”

Chotiner also said the change will support jobs in our communities that might be hurt by limiting the types of beverages to those with less than 250 calories.

The proposed change has not been approved and will be reviewed Wednesday, Chotiner wrote.

“If we’re creating a culture of health in this state, we have to provide a way to offer healthy options,” McIntosh said. “So we’re hoping that people realize that it’s important to protect those health standards and we’re hoping the commissioners vote to protect those health standards.”

The Montgomery County Council is expected to vote Tuesday on its version of the healthy vending machine standards, which would apply to vending machines in county office buildings.

The standards limit beverages to 250 calories.

Because of the that restriction, beverage industry lobbyist Ellen Valentino calls the standards a “ban.”

“In general, our industry is responding to the market and our commitment to reduce sugar and calories in everybody’s diet,” Valentino said.

Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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