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Welch’s Threatened Over Heart Health Claims

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Welch's promotes its grape juice and other products as healthy, but one group says those health benefits are actually outweighed by an overabundance of sugar and calories.

“Welch's shouldn't be slapping a heart-health icon on its grape juice and other products,” the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest said Tuesday.

“[N]ot only does Welch's juice not improve heart health,” the group alleges, “it may, on balance, do harm by contributing to insulin resistance and obesity.” The CSPI says it notified the company “that it will face a lawsuit unless it stops making heart-health claims on its juices, spreads, fruit juice cocktails, and fruit snacks.”

The group says an 8-ounce serving of Welch's juice contains 36 grams of sugar and 140 calories, more than the same amount of Coca-Cola.

"Most Americans concerned about their weight and risk of diabetes would actually do well to drink less juice," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said. "It's deceptive and misleading for Welch's to claim that grape juice has any special benefit to heart health."

Welch's maintains that its Concord grapes promote heart health and, in a statement provided to ABC News, calls the accusations against their messaging "misguided."

“When it comes to heart health, the substantial body of research conducted over a 15-year period supports the cardiovascular benefits of 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes, including many placebo controlled, human studies,” the company said. “In addition, a recent comprehensive review of the science published in Nutrition Today concluded that consuming grapes and grape juice can support cardiovascular health without adversely affecting weight in healthy adults.

“Contrary to CSPI’s view on the role of 100% fruit juice, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone – adults and children – get more fruit each day,” the statement continued. “The guidelines also say that 100% juice is one way to add more fruit to the diet as a complement to whole fruit intake.

“Furthermore, equating the nutritional value of 100% grape juice to soft drinks is not only misleading but potentially harmful to the public.  Calorie for calorie, 100% grape juice packs more nutrition than soft drinks and delivers essential vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant nutrients – to help promote health,” the company said.

“CSPI has raised a number of other specific accusations and since those specifics are subjects of potential litigation, we are unable to provide further comment.  Welch’s has always taken our responsibility to consumers seriously and will continue to take great care in our messages.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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