It may not be a tsunami, but a wave of potato popularity seems to be swelling.
A stamp of approval from the American Heart Association should help secure fresh spuds a place in the diets of Americans seeking healthy options, according to officials from the Idaho Potato Commission.
The commission announced this month that the American Heart Association certified fresh Idaho potatoes to carry the association’s “heart-check mark.” The certification process took months to complete and included analysis of the levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in Idaho potatoes. According to nutritional information from the Idaho Potato Commission’s website, fresh potatoes have no fat or cholesterol.
“For years, the IPC has been working hard to communicate to consumers that Idaho potatoes are an important part of a healthy, nutritious diet,” said commission president Frank Muir in a news release.
“We’re proud that the American Heart Association, a revered and incredibly important health organization, agrees with us. The heart-check mark is the perfect complement to our ‘Grown in Idaho seal.’ ”
The certification announcement comes about a month after the U.S. Potato Board unveiled statistics from NPD Group that showed the first year-to-year increase in potato consumption since the early 2000s. Consumption was stunted by low-carb diet fads that had consumers shunning carbohydrate-rich foods including potatoes and other nutritious vegetables, according to the Idaho Potato Commission.
Commission officials consider the certification to be a “significant milestone.” In its announcement, the commission stated that “73% of primary shoppers trust the American Heart Association more than any other organization to certify food products. The heart-check mark assures shoppers that they are making a smart and heart-healthy purchasing choice.”
While more than 800 individual foods are certified for the heart-check mark program, there are surprisingly few fresh fruits and vegetables on the list.
“We were very surprised that there are not more fresh commodities on the list,” a spokeswoman for the Idaho Potato Commission said May 18. “Maybe our certification will spur others in the produce industry to seek the heart-check mark.”
Wilcox Fresh, Rexburg, Idaho, was the first potato shipper to use the American Heart Association logo on its bags, said executive vice president of sales and marketing Jim Richter. He said Wilcox has been using it for about three years.
The American Heart Association established its heart-check mark program in 1995. To learn more about the certification process and for a list of certified foods, visit http://www.heartcheckmark.org.