Ariz. debuts voluntary menu-labeling program

PHOENIX Arizona's Department of Health Services this week launched a voluntary menu-labeling program.

The Arizona Smart Choice program allows participating restaurants to label some of their individual items and combinations as "healthy.'' Four chains already have enrolled: Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse and Subway.

This voluntary program was developed after a state lawmaker last year proposed mandatory menu labeling. The ADHS said obesity in Arizona has more than doubled since 1990.

“Any restaurant interested in submitting their recipes, or working with us to tweak menu items to meet our nutritional criteria, need only contact ADHS to start the process,” said Margaret Tate, bureau chief of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control for ADHS. “Once a menu item is approved, the restaurant is given Arizona Smart Choice program materials to display at their location.”

To qualify for approval, a main dish must have at least two servings of beans, whole grains, fruits or vegetables; no more than 700 calories; no more than 30 percent of total calories from fat; no more than 15 percent of total calories from saturated fat; no more than 0.5 grams of trans fat; and no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

A qualifying side dish must have at least one serving of beans, whole grains, fruits or vegetables; no more than 300 calories; no more than 30 percent of total calories from fat; no more than 15 percent of total calories from saturated fat; no more than 0.5 grams of trans fat; and no more than 650 milligrams of sodium.

The department said there is no fee for restaurants to join the program, but operators will need to pay for nutrient analysis services of their menu items.

For more information, visit www.azsmartchoice.com [2] .