Campbell’s Soup, AHA Targeted in ‘Heart-Check’ Class Action Lawsuit
By Anne Bucher
A class action lawsuit accusing Campbell Soup Co. and the American Heart Association (AHA) of misleading customers about the health benefits of Campbell’s soups was filed with the U.S. District Court of New Jersey on August 13, 2013.
The Campbell’s soup class action lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of consumers who purchased any of Campbell’s Healthy Request soups that had the AHA’s “Heart-Check” label. The label reads, “American Heart Association Certified: Meets Criteria for Heart-Healthy Food.”
According to the class action lawsuit, the AHA collects fees from “manufacturers of unhealthy processed foods” in exchange for the opportunity to use the AHA “Heart-Check” label. The plaintiffs claim that while the Healthy Request soups satisfy health standards set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the soups do not meet the AHA’s higher nutritional standards, particularly for sodium content. The plaintiffs claim that the Heart-Check Mark on the label is misleading and tricks customers into believing that the product is healthier than it actually is.
“This deceptive practice not only causes consumers to overpay for Campbell’s AHA-certified soups, but also presents substantial health risks to all consumers, including the more than five million American consumers suffering from congestive heart failure,” the Campbell soup class action lawsuit says.
According to the AHA, “Our Food Certification Program regularly conducts laboratory testing to verify that products earning the Heart Check meet our nutritional criteria, which are more stringent of those of the (FDA). Food manufacturers applying to the Food Certification Program pay an administrative fee, which is only sufficient for the program’s product testing, public information and program operating expenses.”
The association insists that only food products that meet their criteria receive the Heart-Check label.
Kerry O’Shea of Huntington Beach, California, initially filed the class action lawsuit, which alleges that a single serving of the Healthy Request soups with the AHA check mark contain “nearly three times the amount of sodium permitted by the AHA’s noncommercial nutritional guidelines, while a full can contains between six and seven times that amount.”
According to the class action lawsuit, O’Shea has purchased 15 varieties of Campbell’s Healthy Request Soups with the AHA Heart-Check logo over a four-year period.
The AHA check mark has appeared on 97 Campbell products, including soups, breads, sauces and juices. According to the class action lawsuit, “the only difference between AHA-certified Campbell’s products and non-certified competing products is that Campbell’s has paid money to the AHA to license its logo.” O’Shea says that she purchased the Healthy Request soups after examining the label and relying on the AHA’s Heart Check logo.
“The Heart-Check Mark symbol increases by 75 percent the likelihood that a shopper will purchase the product that bears the mark,” the class action lawsuit says. “When faced with a choice of similar products, the Heart-Check Mark symbol positively influences 60 percent of shoppers’ purchase decisions. The AHA has indicated that 85 percent of shoppers find the Heart-Check logo “helpful” or “very helpful.”
In her class action lawsuit, O’Shea is asserting violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment.
The Campbell’s Soup AHA Class Action Lawsuit is O’Shea v. Campbell Soup Co. et al., Case No. 13-cv-04887, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
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