BOSTON (CBS) – They are easy to spot: items at the grocery store marketed with health claims. Although some can help shoppers make better choices, the “Heart Check” stamp of approval by the American Heart Association is accused of misleading customers.
A number of different varieties of Campbell soup are sold with the Heart Check stamp, but critics maintain they contain too much sodium to be part of a good diet.
Too much sodium can lead to high pressure. Dr. William Weintraub, a cardiologist, explained, “Elevated blood pressure leads to an increase in cardiovascular events, leads to stroke, leads to heart attacks, leads to renal failure, kidney failure, and leads to death.”
Health professionals suggest a diet with 1,500 mg of sodium a day. The problem is Americans are currently averaging about 3,400 mg a day.
The Campbell’s soup varieties marketed with the Heart Check label have 410 mg of sodium per serving. That total climbs to more than 1,000 grams if a person consumes the entire can, which is often the case.
That one can of soup would then result in about 2/3 of the sodium a person should have in an entire day.
Attorney Adam Levitt has filed a lawsuit against both the American Heart Association and Campbell’s because “It is a breach of the public trust. It is a violation of the deceptive and unfair trade practices act.”
Levitt added, “The issue here is about whether a major food company in the United States as well as a leading heart health organization can lie.”
The lawsuit suggests the AHA benefits financially from awarding these seals of approval. Last year, it collected $2.7 million from food manufacturers. The association maintains this was to cover the costs of the Heart Check program.
The AHA also believes these products do have some heart healthy features, like being low in fat and containing other nutrients.
In a videotape response, Rose Marie Robertson of the AHA said, “It is not deceptive or misleading. Consumer information regarding sodium is clearly available in these soup cans.”
Boston University professor of nutrition Joan Salge Blake has this advice for shoppers: look specifically for the terms “low sodium” and “reduced sodium”.
“So the FDA says OK, if you want to use those terms . . . low sodium would be no more than 140mg, and reduced sodium will have 25% less than the original.”
After reviewing the labels of the Campbell’s cans with us, one woman told us she has another plan. She is going to make her own soup.
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