StarKist Accused Of “Deceptive Use” Of Health Claim

‘Heart-Check’ Logo Is Misrepresentation, Plaintiff Argues


US big 3 tuna firm, StarKist, has been sued for “deceptive use” of the American Heart Association (AHA) logo on its tuna products, with it claimed the company has not disclosed that the label is a paid endorsement. According to the plaintiff this has manipulated consumers into believing the StarKist brand’s references are healthier than those of other manufacturers. StarKist is not the only tuna company in the US to face these claims, as Bumble Bee was embroiled in a similar case last year.

A class action lawsuit has been filed to a New York district court, where plaintiff Abraham Jacob Warner argues that StarKist is mislabeling several of its seafood products when decorating them with AHA’s “Heart-Check” logo, as it has not disclosed that it pays AHA for the use. The label is placed on 10 StarKist tuna in water references.

In court documents seen bAtuna it is argued that StarKist references carrying the label “contain a brazen misrepresentation that causes consumers to falsely believe that StarKist products are healthier than products made by other food manufacturers”.

Warner states that he specifically purchased a ‘Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water’ StarKist can because of the Heart-Check symbol, as he believed this signified it was healthier than references that do not carry the same label. It is added that he was unaware that the AHA logo was a paid authorization. “Had Plaintiff known the Heart-Check Mark is a paid endorsement, he would not have purchased the product or would not have paid as much for the product,” it is written in the lawsuit.

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AHA sells the rights to use its labels to food manufacturers, and StarKist pays an annual fee to display the logo on its seafood references, the plaintiff alleges. It is further stated that this endorsement leads to an increase in sales, and allows companies to sell their products at a premium price.

Processors such as StarKist “eagerly pay the AHA for its endorsement because they know that the Heart-Check mark will increase their sales and their profits,” the lawsuit reads, adding that disclosing that such validations are paid is required by both federal and state law.

It is not the first time a major US tuna firm has faced legal proceedings over the use of the AHA logo. Last year, a similar lawsuit was filed against Bumble Bee, also claiming that it had displayed the Heart Check label on products without disclosing it had paid for this right. BB did however win the case, with the judge arguing that the company’s labelling decisions were “certainly open to criticism”, but not illegal.