Campbell Soup Co. Agrees to Settle FTC Charges
That It Made Deceptive and Unsubstantiated Ad Claims
FTC News Release
April 8, 1991
In a consent agreement announced today, Campbell Soup Co. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it made deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims in an advertisement for its soups.
The FTC charged in a 1989 administrative complaint that Campbell's advertising linked the low-fat, low-cholesterol content of its soups with a reduced risk of some forms of heart disease, but failed to disclose that the soups are high in sodium, and that diets high in sodium may increase the risk of heart disease. The ad also represented that Campbell's soups contribute to a diet that reduces the risk of heart disease, but this claim was unsubstantiated, the FTC alleged.
Under the proposed consent agreement, announced for public comment today, Campbell has agreed that, for any soup containing more than 500 milligrams of sodium in an eight-ounce serving, it will disclose the sodium content in any advertisement that directly or by implication mentions heart disease in connection with the soup.
In addition, the company has agreed that it will not imply there is a connection between soup and a reduction in the risk of heart disease, unless it has competent and reliable scientific or medical evidence to support the claim. Campbell is based in Camden, NJ.
The vote to accept the consent agreement for public comments was 2 to 1. Commissioner Andrew J. Strenio, Jr., voted against the motion, and Commissioners Deborah K. Owen and Roscoe B. Starek III did not participate.
In a separate statement, Commissioner Mary L. Azcuenaga said she believes the consent "will cure the deception alleged in the complaint without unnecessarily restricting communication of truthful information." She added, however, that she would have preferred that the consent order apply to all Campbell foods, rather than just soup. Still, she said, the order "certainly puts Campbell on notice that the Commission might consider similar ads for other food products to be deceptive."
Azcuenaga also raised a concern that the order could be interpreted to prevent truthful statements about fat or cholesterol content if such statements were construed as implicit claims that the product helps reduce heart disease. In addition, she noted the ongoing controversy over the link between sodium and heart disease.
In his dissenting statement, Commissioner Strenio said he believes the consent agreement neither cures the alleged deception, nor prevents its recurrence. Of primary concern to Strenio is Part I of the consent, which requires Campbell to disclose the sodium content of certain soups.
"The alleged deception was not failure to disclose the sodium content of Campbell's soups," Strenio said, "but failure to disclose that these soups are high in sodium and that diets high in sodium may increase the risk of heart disease." Consumers would have to interpret the content disclosure as meaning that Campbell's soups are high in sodium, and also understand the relationship between high sodium consumption and heart disease, in order for this consent to solve the problem, Strenio said. According to Strenio, there is no evidence in the record to show that consumers would conclude from the content disclosure that soups covered by the order are high in sodium.
- FTC File No. 882-3032. FTC Docket No. D-9223.
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