Press Release: Organization Challenges American Heart Association Over “HEALTHY” Certification Seal


Animal Outlook accuses the non-profit heart health organization of misleading the public about consuming meat     

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (August 29, 2022) – Animal Outlook, a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal protection organization, has announced it has filed a lawsuit against the American Heart Association (“AHA”) over the organization’s use of its “Heart-Check” certification mark on certain meat products that purveyors pay AHA to use.

As recently as August 1, 2022, an official peer-reviewed journal published on behalf of AHA recognized that “higher meat intake [is] associated with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease [ASCVD].” That same journal also acknowledged “biochemical links between dietary meat and ASCVD.” This is consonant with AHA’s past recognition of the negative effects of red meat. In 2021, for example, the AHA stated that “in general, red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) have more saturated fat” than other protein sources. “Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.” Given AHA’s recognition of these health effects, Animal Outlook sent a letter to AHA in late 2021, asking the organization to stop the process of certifying these products as heart healthy in exchange for a fee, but AHA refused to do so.

This lawsuit from Animal Outlook alleges that, in exchange for a fee, AHA allows companies to display the AHA mark on certain meat products and market them as “heart healthy,” which is counter to AHA’s prior statements. The lawsuit further alleges that AHA promotes its Heart-Check certification program as using standards more stringent than the government’s standards to certify beef, when, in fact, AHA only uses the government’s minimum standards. 

Cheryl Leahy, Executive Director of Animal Outlook, states, “For nearly 100 years the American Heart Association has made it its mission to educate consumers on healthy living. That’s why it is so incongruous that they are now selling these pay-to-play heart healthy certifications for the very meat products they have publicly taken a position against.”

In addition to the health aspect of consuming meat, the inhumane toll that the production of animal meat takes on the animals is indisputable. The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that in 2020 over 165 million land animals were slaughtered for food in America and that figure doesn’t take into consideration chicken or fish. 

Addressing possible consumer confusion stemming from the endorsement, Leahy states, “It would stand to reason that consumers who see a Heart-Check certification would assume that the American Heart Association deems these products to be healthy for their heart and don’t realize that the producers pay AHA, which in turn awards the certifications.” She continues, “In our minds, the American Heart Association is doing a great disservice to the people whose health they have worked so diligently for nearly a century to protect, not to mention the treatment of animals in agriculture, and we are calling for the organization to end these misleading paid endorsements and reimburse consumers deceived by this deceptive marketing.”

Dr. John McDougall, a board-certified internist and nationally recognized nutrition expert, states, “all animal-derived foods lead to an array of human health problems.” He further states, “it’s time for the American Heart Association to stop their longtime favoritism towards the animal agriculture industries.”

Animal Outlook is represented pro bono in this matter by Brian Klein, Teresa Huggins, Melissa Meister, and Jared Sohn of Waymaker LLP, a boutique law firm based in Los Angeles, California.


Animal Outlook is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to aid animals by strategically challenging the status quo of animal agribusiness through undercover investigations, legal advocacy, corporate and food system reform, and empowering everyone to choose vegan. 




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Jim Amos, Scout 22 

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