CSPI finds more than twice the fat, saturated fat as claimed

WASHINGTON—Ribeye and strip steaks from Laura’s Lean Beef may have two, three, or even four times as much fat or saturated fat as Laura’s claims, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). At least 28 of 30 Laura’s Lean-brand steaks CSPI analyzed had more fat, saturated fat, and calories than claimed on the label or Laura’s web site. On average, the steaks contained more than twice as much fat and saturated fat and 40 percent more calories than the company states.

Laura’s strip steaks are certified to use the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “heart-check” logo on their labels, yet all but one of the 14 strip steaks tested failed to meet the AHA’s guidelines. One strip steak contained more than three times as much saturated fat as the AHA guidelines allow. None of the ribeye steaks tested met the AHA guidelines, and the steak is no longer certified by the association, but five of them had the AHA logo on the label. The AHA’s certification guidelines require a serving of meat to contain less than 5 grams of total fat and less than 2 grams of saturated fat.

“Laura’s nutrition numbers aren’t just slightly off, they are off-the-charts wrong,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Anyone relying on Laura’s labels or Laura’s web site for nutrition information would be led to believe that the ribeye and strip steaks have less than half the fat that they actually contain. That poses a real problem for people trying to cut down on saturated fat or calories for health reasons.”

CSPI has asked the Department of Agriculture to stop Laura’s inaccurate labeling and to verify the accuracy of Nutrition Facts labels on other brands of fresh meat and poultry that use such voluntary labels. CSPI has also asked the Federal Trade Commission to halt Laura’s deceptive advertising and advised the AHA about Laura’s misuse of AHA’s heart-check logo on Laura’s steaks.

CSPI also asked USDA to require labels to emphasize the number of servings in a given steak, since many consumers may eat entire steaks weighing much more than the official serving size of four ounces. For instance, someone eating an average 9.5-ounce (about 7.5 ounces cooked) Laura’s Lean ribeye steak would consume 13 grams of saturated fat—two-thirds of the government’s recommended daily limit and more than six times the two grams of saturated fat per four-ounce serving listed on the label.

CSPI also expressed concern that the American Heart Association was letting its trusted heart-check logo be misused. In a letter to AHA President M. Cass Wheeler, Jacobson praised the program but urged AHA to better monitor the use of its logo. And, since the Laura’s Lean Beef violations seem so flagrant, CSPI suggested that the AHA consider barring the company from its food certification program.

“Only one of the 30 steaks we tested would qualify for the Heart Association logo, and I have a hard time believing that our test results come as a surprise to Laura’s Lean Beef,” said Jacobson. He urged the Heart Association to focus especially on the accuracy of nutrition information for meat and other fresh foods, the nutrient content of which is more variable than that of processed foods.

CSPI purchased the ribeye and strip steaks—Laura’s two best-selling steaks—from supermarkets in New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon. CSPI noted that although the nutrition data on Laura’s web site and labels is deceptive, Laura’s Lean Beef’s ribeye and strip steaks are indeed leaner than the average supermarket steaks.