American Heart Association Endorsement Not to be Trusted!

by Annie on October 29, 2008 · 9 comments

in Eating Healthy

Photo by:  laffy4k.

During my childhood, my mom rarely kept cookies and cakes around the house. But once a month she allowed us to pick any box of cereal we want (normally we only got Cheerios). And I always picked Cookie Crisp because it offers “a mouthful of chips in every bite.” That was the closest I got to chocolate chip cookies in my childhood, unless we have a classroom party. The cereal is a loser in the nutrition department, but I love the idea that I was eating cookies for breakfast.

As a college student I often purchased Cookie Crisp. I know the cereal is full of sugar. But with the red heart and white check mark (American Heart Association logo) on the side, I figured I am doing something good for my heart. Boy, was I fooled by this marketing ploy of the food companies.

Health endorsements from the American Heart Association are slapped on the packaging of many sugary food products hoping to convince us that their packaged sugary food products are good for our families. This post discuss how the American Heart Association endorsement on packaged food products is not to be trusted.

Criteria to qualify for the American Heart Association””s endorsement
To qualify for the American Heart Association””s endorsement, packaged food products must:

• Be low in fat (less than 3 g)
• Be low in cholesterol (less than 20 mg)
• Be low in saturated fat (less than 1 g)
• Be low in sodium (less than 480 mg based upon a 2,000 calorie diet)
• Have at least 10% if the Daily Value for one nutrient such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, or fiber.

So the bar for health endorsement is set pretty low since most sugary cereals, snacks, or drinks qualify based upon the above criteria. The criteria for the American Heart Association””s endorsement have no guidelines for sugar or refined carbohydrates.

Is someone missing the link here? Sugar has calories. Calories contribute to weight gain. Weight gain leads to obesity. Obesity leads to heart disease.

The heart healthy endorsement on these packaged sugary food products are suppose to inspire confidence in us when we are purchasing these products.

Photo by:  Scott Robinson.

Participation fees for the American Heart Association Endorsement
According to Food Politics by Marion Nestle, current (the book was published in 2003) fees require for the endorsement are “$7,500 per product and $4,500 for annual renewals, with a discount if more than 25 products are submitted in one year…”

How is the American Heart Association logo on a food product going to help us when the AHA are handing out these logos like candy during Halloween? As long as the food companies come knocking with the correct fees for participation in the American Heart Association endorsement program, the AHA just give it to them? Plus a discount for getting more of their sugary products endorsed?

The only exception is Post cereals because it is made by a tobacco company. I guess the American Heart Association has to set some endorsement standards.  But with the amount of donations and volunteers the American Heart Association get, do they really need these fees to operate?

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

Related Posts:

Like what you are reading? How about subscribing? It's free!

Subscribe in a Reader
Enter your email address:

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

LisaNewton October 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I’m surprised sugar isn’t part of the criteria, especially because of the childhood obesity issue.

Excellent post…….


Blake October 29, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Yeah, that is pretty crazy that sugar isn’t part of the criteria. It for sure should be. Thanks for the info!

Blakes last blog post……Exercise is Medicine


James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. October 30, 2008 at 7:45 am

Thanks for the good info.
Maybe they will be changing their criteria. I would love to hear their take on this.


Grounded Fitness October 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

great post. i always tell my clients you cant trust anything on the front of the box- the only thing you can trust is the ingredient list and nutrtion label.

Kelly Turner


MizFit October 31, 2008 at 3:50 am

VERY VERY INTERESTING…I need to read more on this before I trot off to hear what the quaker peeps have to say.


Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips November 2, 2008 at 4:48 am

Wow. Interesting stuff. You see similar stuff over here in the UK with lots of processed products claiming to be good for your heart or low in fat despite being loaded with sugar.

I generally figure that highly processed foods (such as ready meals) can never be that good for you no matter what the packaging says. However, a lot of people will often take the package claims at face value and believe they are doing their body some good by eating these unhealthy products. It’s quite worrying that an organisation that is as trusted as the American Heart Association is pretty much handing out endorsments in exchange for fees.


Steve C @ November 4, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Wow. I had absolutely no idea that the requirements were so low. I also had no idea that there was money behind the whole thing. These days I don’t know who or what to trust. It seems like capitalism affects everything we buy.

Steve C @ MyWifeQuitHerJob.coms last blog post……Customer Stories: The Woman Who Didn’t Get A Receipt


DR November 7, 2008 at 10:55 am

We have a similar program in canada – the Health check.

Wendy mesley from CBC did an investigate piece on them and it revealed that the health Check stamp of approval is a sham.

Companies pay to have it put on their packaging.

Here is a video of the program – inetersting stuff –


asithi November 8, 2008 at 10:40 pm

@Steve C @ – I think a lot of people do not know that money is involved with endorsements from AHA. All my family members also think that if the product have the endorsement then it is better for you than the products that do not. Being a blogger has lead down the path of health educator for family. A role that I truely enjoy.

@DR – That is an interesting video. Hmmm…. I never even thought about the food marketing that takes place outside of the US. But a lot of food companies are global companies so they just use the same marketing ploy.

Thank you everyone else for commenting.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: