The American Heart Association is expanding and improving its Heart-Check Food Certification Program to allow certification of more foods with the healthier fats, including fish, nuts and other foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The American Heart Association is also revising sodium allowances and implementing screening guidelines to limit added sugars and promote dietary fiber in certified products.
Fish, nuts and other foods that have heart-health benefits including the presence of “better fats,” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are eligible for certification immediately. To allow food manufacturers time to reformulate their production processes, the updated requirements covering sodium, sugar and fiber will be effective in 2014.
Now more companies can certify products to use the famed red-and-white Heart-Check mark, which has helped shoppers select healthy foods for more than 15 years. The Heart-Check mark is the leading health symbol of its industry, and recent research shows consumers are more likely to buy a product bearing the symbol. Compared to other leading on-package icons, the Heart-Check mark has the strongest aided brand awareness, trust and purchase intent.
“With these enhancements, the Heart-Check program will help consumers easily identify and choose even more heart-healthy foods for themselves and their families,” said Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., the Bickford Green and Gold Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and an American Heart Association spokeswoman.
“The Heart-Check program brings benefits to those companies invested in the health of their consumers. Not only does it add a level of credibility and trust that other programs don’t bring, but certification aligns food products with a leading heart-health organization.”
The American Heart Association updated the program to align with the organization’s healthy eating and lifestyle recommendations and priorities identified as part of its 2020 goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent.
Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids benefit heart health. The recommendations also suggest that the use of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels and are beneficial to heart health when consumed in moderation.
The look and feel of the reputable Heart-Check mark is also changing. The symbol now makes it even easier for consumers to spot products certified to meet the American Heart Association criteria. The criteria allows for inclusion of foods that are higher sources of “better” fats, while limiting negative nutrients such as saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and sodium. The new look will offer more simplified language and strengthen visibility on a product’s package.