The AHA claims that its mission is “to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. That single purpose drives all we do.” This worthy mission is, in truth, tainted by what the AHA does not tell the public: that for a fee, the AHA will allow manufacturers of unhealthy, processed foods – including over thirty varieties of Campbell’s canned soups – to place the AHA’s certification and endorsement on products that run directly counter to the AHA’s stated mission.
As alleged, the AHA’s nationally recognized “Heart-Check Mark” certification thus fools consumers by misrepresenting that products bearing the Heart-Check Mark certification meet the AHA’s heart-healthy nutritional guidelines. That misrepresentation (or omission of the true facts) is unfair, deceptive, and misleading, because the AHA’s Heart-Check Mark certification does not signify adherence to those guidelines.
As alleged herein, the AHA, for a fee, abandons its general, non-commercial dietary and nutritional guidelines – which categorically rule out unhealthy processed products, including Campbell’s soups, as demonstrated below – and agrees to certify as heart-healthy products that merely meet the minimum criteria for certain FDA-regulated health claims, rather than the AHA’s own more demanding standards. 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 AHA’s Heart-Check Mark certification scheme runs directly counter to its non-commercial nutritional guidance. Instead of aiding the consuming public, the AHA’s certification scheme confuses and misleads the consuming public, because it employs standards that have nothing to do with the AHA’s general nutritional guidelines.
As a result, the AHA certifies products that are far less healthy, and far less heart healthy, than it otherwise advises consumers to eat. A single serving of Campbell’s AHA certified soups contains 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.
As stated in the complaint, the case is not only about AHA’s willingness to mislead consumers for a fee; it is also about the manufacturers who are willing to pay that fee, and funnel other monies to the AHA, in furtherance of schemes to prey upon consumer demand for products that are legitimately healthy.
By the AHA selling, and Campbell’s buying, the right to affix the AHA’s seal of approval to its products, they falsely represent to the public that AHA-certified products manufactured by Campbell’s possess some cardiovascular benefit not enjoyed by products that have not been certified by the AHA. In truth, however, 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.
The AHA benefits from the monies paid to it by food manufacturers and the advertising and organizational name recognition that come from having its logo placed on millions of food containers. Campbell’s benefits by being able to affix the AHA’s Heart-Check Mark logo on the products for which it has paid for it and is able to enjoy increased sales and higher profits due to their premium pricing and perceived health advantage. These benefits to Campbell’s and AHA, however, come at the substantial cost to Plaintiff and the other Class members, both in the form of purchasing falsely labeled products based on Defendants “heart healthy” pretext, and materially overpaying for those products.
The complaint is brought on behalf of all individuals in the United States who purchased any Campbell’s “Healthy Request” soup bearing an AHA Heart-Check Mark symbol on its label.