AHA revises Heart Check program criteria to include healthy fats

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The American Heart Association (AHA) has revised its Heart Check Food Certification Program to allow the certification of more foods with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as fish and nuts, the association has said.

Products and foods that meet the association’s criteria for healthier fats are eligible for certification under the program immediately, and the AHA said it has also revised its standards to limit added sugars and sodium, and promote dietary fiber in certified products.

American Heart Association spokesperson and registered dietitian Dr. Rachel Johnson said: "We know that consumers have relied on the American Heart Association's Heart-Check mark to easily identify heart-healthy foods for more than 15 years. Adding nuts, fish and other foods that are rich sources of good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, enhances the program and gives more healthy options consumers can choose with the same trust factor."

The AHA-endorsed red heart check mark requires foods to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol in order to qualify, and the program already covers other nutritional criteria, such as being high in whole grains, fiber and added nutrients, and low in sodium, saturated, trans and total fat.

Launched in 1995, it was one of the first front-of-pack nutrition labeling schemes, designed to give consumers quick, at-a-glance nutritional information. Until now, sugar content has not been considered.The updated requirements for sodium, added sugars and fiber will be implemented in 2014, the AHA said, in order to give food manufacturers time to reformulate their products if they wish them to remain certified under the program.

Californian Walnuts welcomed the move to include foods containing healthier fats, saying that there is a strong body of research supporting walnuts’ role in lowering LDL, or so-called ‘bad’, cholesterol. The AHA Heart Check mark “provides consumers a quick and reliable way to identify heart-healthy foods,” it said.

The AHA said it has also introduced a new look for the Heart Check mark with simplified language and stronger visibility on packaging. More information on the redesign can be found here.

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