How a Food Becomes Heart-Check Certified

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When you see the Heart-Check mark on a food product, you know it has been put through a robust certification process:

STEP 1: Company approved to Participate in the Heart-Check Program

The American Heart Association must approve the company for participation, and companies must formally agree to all policies of the Heart-Check program.

STEP 2: Product Submitted and Reviewed for Heart-Check Certification

A product's nutrition profile must meet Heart-Check nutrition criteria and regulatory requirements for making coronary heart disease claims. Companies submit administrative fees  to the American Heart Association to cover program operating expenses.

STEP 3: Product Package and Promotions Review and Approval Process

All use of the Heart-Check mark on product packaging and promotional and advertising materials must be pre-approved.

STEP 4: Certification Renewal

Companies are contractually obligated to keep their products compliant and renew certification on a regular basis as scheduled.

Qualifying for the Heart-Check mark requires foods to meet clear-cut standards:

Products must meet nutrition requirements that are based on science recommendations from American Heart Association statements. Additionally, products must comply with FDA and/or USDA regulations for making a coronary heart disease claim.

The Heart-Check program complies with 10 different health claims in 13 food categories.

Heart-Check Food Categories and Health Claims

Standard Certification (FDA-regulated non--meat):

Includes a wide assortment of foods, such as fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables; soups; fruit juices; liquid egg products; milk and yogurt products, breads, cereals, beans, and legumes.

Health claim: Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Trans Fat and Reduced Risk of Heart Disease health claim (Docket No. 2006Q-0458)

Standard Certification (meat and seafood – “extra lean”):

Includes fresh and frozen meat, poultry and seafood products that fit the FDA’s description for “extra lean”: less than 5 grams of total fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per RACC and per 100 grams.

Health claim: Dietary Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease (21 CFR 101.75)

Main Dish and Meal Products:

Includes products that fit the FDA’s definition for a main dish or meal, namely that the product weigh at least a certain amount and contain foods from different food groups.

Health claim: Dietary Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease (21 CFR 101.75)

Whole Grain:

Includes breads, cereals, crackers, biscuits, muffins and other grain-based products that meet the content requirements for whole grain and dietary fiber.

Health claim: Whole Grain Foods with Moderate Fat Content and the Risk of Heart Disease (Docket No. 03Q-0547)

Nuts (whole or chopped):

Includes whole or chopped almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and some pine nuts.

Health claim: Nuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No. 02P-0505)

Fish (high in omega-3 fatty acids):

Includes fish that contain specified amounts of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.

Health claim: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No. 2003Q-0401)

Heart-Check program nutrition experts and registered dietitians developed realistic, science-based program nutrition requirements. For example, current food technology and food science capabilities were taken into consideration. Additionally, great care was taken to develop criteria that encourage consumption of foods and nutrients of public health concern. The goal is to make it easy for consumers to follow a heart-healthy diet. When a product is close to the limit for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and/or sodium, one of the quality assurance measures employed by the Heart-Check program is analytical lab testing to verify the compliance with the Heart-Check nutrition requirements.