August 14/Washington/Center for Science in the Public Interest -- Welch's should not be slapping a heart-health icon on its grape juice and other products, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In fact, says the group, not only does Welch's juice not improve heart health, it may, on balance, do harm by contributing to insulin resistance and obesity. CSPI notified Welch Foods Inc. that it will face a lawsuit unless it stops making heart-health claims on its juices, spreads, fruit juice cocktails, and fruit snacks.

CSPI claims Welch's cites only studies that were uncontrolled, conducted on animals, or that actually showed that grape juice was ineffective at providing the cardiovascular benefits associated with polyphenols. And the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements found that studies of vitamin C gave no indication of cardiovascular benefits, CSPI continues. Making matters worse, says CSPI, is that Welch's encourages consumers to drink juice in lieu of eating fresh fruit, stating that "Getting enough fruits and vegetables each day is important for overall health—but everyday life often gets in the way … Welch's 100% Grape Juice makes it easy to squeeze in more purple fruit each day as part of a healthy diet for the whole family."

The effects of too much sugar and too many calories negate any possible health benefits from Welch's products, CSPI wrote in a letter to Welch Foods Inc. president and CEO Bradley Irwin. An 8oz. serving of Welch's grape juice contains 36g of sugar and 140 calories, about one-third 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," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "It's deceptive and misleading for Welch's to claim that grape juice has any special benefit to heart health."

CSPI's letter invites Welch's to resolve the issues it raises without litigation but says that if Welch's does not respond, CSPI will pursue litigation. CSPI's in-house litigation unit is currently pursuing cases regarding products made by General Mills (fruit snacks, Nature Valley granola bars), Coca-Cola (Vitaminwater), and others.