FTC Charges Campbell Soup Co. with Failing
to Disclose the Sodium Content of Its Soups
Issues Administrative Complaint
FTC News Release
January 26, 1989
The Federal Trade Commission today issued an administrative complaint charging Campbell Soup Co. with making deceptive and unsubstantiated claims in advertisements for its soups. The ads link the low fat, low cholesterol content of its soups with a reduced risk of some forms of heart disease, but fail to disclose that the soups are high in sodium and that diets high in sodium may increase the risk of heart disease, according to the complaint. In light of the representations made in the ads, the company's failure to make this disclosure is deceptive, the complaint charged.
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director William MacLeod said, "Health-related information is important to consumers, and advertising is a principal source of that information. This is why the Commission demands accuracy in advertising."
Campbell claims in ads that are part of its "Soup is Good Food" advertising campaign, that most of its soups, including Chicken Noodle, are low in fat and cholesterol, according to the complaint. In addition, the complaint states, the ads also claim that the soups, as part of a diet low in fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of some forms of heart disease.
According to the complaint, Campbell represents in its ads that it has substantiation for the claim that most of its soups make a positive contribution to a diet that reduces the risk of heart disease. However, the complaint charged, Campbell did not have substantiation for its claims, and the representation that it did is false, misleading, or deceptive.
The Commission issues a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of a complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has actually violated the law. Such action marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be ruled upon after a formal hearing.
If the Commission finds that Campbell violated the law, it may order the company to notify consumers of the sodium content of its soups in certain advertisements. Specifically, for soup that contains more than 500 milligrams of sodium per eight ounce serving, the Commission may require the company to disclose the soups' sodium content in any ad that directly or by implication mentions heart disease in connection with the soup.
The order may also prohibit Campbell from advertising that its products can contribute to a diet that reduces the risk of heart disease, unless it has substantiation for its claims.
Campbell is a conglomerate that sells many well-known food product lines, including soups. According to trade sources, Campbell controls about two-thirds of the $2.2 billion retail soup market in the United States.
- FTC File No. 882-3032. FTC Docket No. D-9223.
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