Introducing homestyle fiber. Campbell's Homestyle Bean Soup combines three types of beans with a rich savory broth to create a delicious source of fiber. And fiber is important because the National Cancer Institute says that a diet high in fiber and low in fat may help reduce the risk of some forms of cancer ...

From new Campbell Soup Co. print advertisement Introducing homestyle controversy: Campbell's Homestyle Bean Soup is creating an unsavory dispute between the company and the National Cancer Institute.

Health claims for foods have become a hot topic since Kellogg opened the fiber floodgates in 1984. On the back panel of its high-fiber cereals, as well as in its television ads, the company discussed the role of fiber in reducing the risk of cancer. The promotion -- which was developed with the help of NCI -- resulted in an increased market share for all high-fiber cereals.

Campbell, hoping to cash in on a successful strategy, recently rolled out a national advertising campaign of its own, discussing the fiber in its bean and pea soups. Only this time -- after reviewing the company's radio ads -- NCI said it wouldn't give Campbell its blessing to use the public health agency's message. And this summer, it asked that the company remove all reference to NCI from its print advertisements. In a letter to the company asking that Campbell disassociate NCI from the promotional campaign, the federal agency wrote that its main objection to the ads is that the bean soups "contribute more sodium in a serving than we feel is in concert with HHS {Department of Health and Human Services} guidelines. While we have not come up with criteria for sodium level per serving, it was felt that 600 to 700 milligrams per serving was excessive." The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans -- particularly those susceptible to high blood pressure -- avoid too much sodium. One way to avoid too much sodium is to limit intake of some canned soups, the guidelines state.

David Hackney, spokesman for Campbell, said that sodium is not a concern when it comes to reducing the risks of colon cancer, the disease alluded to in the ad. Anyway, Hackney said, while the bean soups are not low-sodium, a serving fits within the 1,100 to 3,300 milligrams a day recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. If 3,300 is the maximum for the day, 700 milligrams at one meal "will keep you in that range," he said.

(Campbell changed its serving sizes about 1 1/2 years ago from two servings to 2 3/4 or three per can -- not because people eat less soup than they used to, but because other soup manufacturers changed their standards. When asked whether consumers really split a can of soup three ways -- and if a larger portion wouldn't substantially raise the sodium per serving -- Hackney said that "there's no doubt that some people will eat a whole can." By the same token, he said, there are some people who will split it as an appetizer-sized portion. A full can of Homestyle Bean Soup has 2,160 milligrams of sodium.)

Nevertheless, Campbell decided to remove reference to NCI in future ads, although the copy will still stress the connection between high fiber diets and reduced risks of cancer. The decision to remove mention of NCI was made on the basis that "no one wins in battle," said Hackney, adding that the company would rather maintain a good relationship with the cancer organization. The information that Campbell quoted -- "the National Cancer Institute says that a diet high in fiber and low in fat may help reduce the risk of some forms of cancer" -- is in the public domain, Hackney maintained, and anyone has "every right to use it."

Elizabeth Tuckermanty, the director of nutrition in NCI's Office of Cancer Communications, said it is "legalistically true," that NCI's message is in the public domain, but that it's "not good ethics" for a company to use someone's name without its permission.

Hackney said that the deadline for the magazine ads that are currently running -- and will continue to run through February -- was this past summer. The company found out about NCI's dissatisfaction with the ads too late to change the wording, Hackney said. Reference to NCI has already been removed from television and radio ads, he said.

Aside from the bickering between Campbell and NCI, the soup ads are a textbook example of why some nutrition educators oppose the whole idea of health claims on foods. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed regulations that would permit manufacturers to proclaim the health advantages on the labels of their products, reversing federal policy prohibiting such claims since 1906. The FDA's comment period on the proposal was extended last week until Jan. 2, 1988.

The Campbell ads highlight concerns over accentuating the positive benefits of a product without disclosing its negatives. In other words, the fiber in the soup might be beneficial in reducing the risks of some forms of cancer, but the sodium may aggravate those consumers with high blood pressure.

In addition, in some of the ads, Campbell discusses the role of fiber in connection with its Split Pea with Ham & Bacon soup. Many health organizations, aside from NCI, have recommended that consumers consume less high-fat foods to reduce the risk of both cancer and heart disease. Aside from being high in sodium, bacon and many types of ham are also high in fat.

Hackney said that the amount of bacon added is too small to make the soup a high-fat food. Nevertheless, said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the "net educational message is that consumers can eat high-fat foods such as bacon as long as they get enough fiber. The bottom-line message is very unfortunate."

Aside from the fiber and cancer claims, Campbell's print ads feature the company's chicken noodle soup as an example of a food low in fat and cholesterol. Foods with these attributes may help reduce the risk of some forms of heart disease, the ad says. Silverglade believes that this portion of the ad is the most glaring because persons modifying their diet for heart disease should also be watchful of their sodium intakes. A serving of Chicken Noodle soup has 910 milligrams of sodium per serving; the company's Special Request version of the soup has 600 milligrams per serving.

In the same ad, Campbell touts its Tomato Soup as being a "delicious source of calcium." Calcium "helps keep your bones and teeth strong," the ad concludes. What the ad doesn't mention is that there is virtually no calcium in a can of the condensed soup. The calcium -- 10 percent of the daily requirement -- simply comes from adding milk.

Sandy Mandell, director of consumer advocacy for the Attorney General's Office for the state of New York, who believes that health claims "invite confusion," said that his office intends to review Campbell's ads and "explore" the claims with the company. In 1984, the New York State Attorney General's Office entered into an agreement with Campbell that any of the company's ads that promoted the health benefits of its soups must include mention of Campbell's line of low-sodium soups. The agreement expired in August of 1987.