Monday, February 7, 2011

Nutella Lawsuit - the tastiest kind

A California mother decided to sue Nutella because of its "hyped nutrition claims".  I don't even know where to begin here.

First of all, I knew exactly what the "health claims" were when i saw the article. Because the Nutella commercial that goes on about how it's made with "skim milk and a hint of cocoa" is, frankly, hilarious. Let's not pretend here that it's anything other than delicious hazelnut chocolate ganache in a jar. (It's under "silence" at this link)

From the article: "
In its marketing, including in claims made on its website, Nutella touts its cocoa and hazelnut spread as ideal for busy moms trying to "nourish their children with whole grains" and says that "Nutella can form a part of a balanced meal."
The suit, filed in federal court in San Diego, alleges that many consumers of the product would not have purchased it had they been aware that the health claims surrounding it were overblown."

I don't see a false health claim in there. I see a statement that balanced meals can include something with saturated fat in it. The marketing doesn't claim that Nutella has any health benefits, or that it's healthy to eat it as a meal on its own. Just that you can put it on toast for god's sake. And I know absolutely zero people who buy Nutella as a magic Health Food and would stop buying it now that this "news" about its healthiness has come to light.

So, let's just try to break this down here:

A) No, Nutella is not going to be classified as a Health Food anytime soon. It's chocolate. It's yummy. It's sugary. These are all true.

B) The commercial never actually made any claims that Nutella, in and of itself, IS a Healthy Food. All it said was that it's tasty, and can be put on wheat toast and what-not as part of a healthy breakfast.

C) Yes, wheat toast with Nutella on it can count as a healthy breakfast. The same way that a bagel with cream cheese can count, or pancakes with maple syrup. (Or dressing on a salad, or butter on a potato or...) Just because it's chocolate doesn't mean that Nutella is inherently less healthy than any number of other flavor-adding fat-or-sugar-based condiments that we use on food all the time.

*Edit: I was discussing this with Thlingan last night, and he tells me he's looked into it, and Nutella is nutritionally (as far as fat, calories, etc. go) about equal to peanut butter. I had a suspicion that it couldn't be worse than most other foods, but it's nice to have an actual food to compare with.

D) You're really suing the company because they claimed that you can add an unhealthy food into a healthy breakfast and it doesn't discount all the rest of the nutrition involved?

E) No seriously, that commercial still cracks me up. I'll eat a spoonful of Nutella for dessert, that isn't a "hint of cocoa".

Gee, it's like there's some kind of.....middle ground, here? About food? It's almost as if it's possible for a food to be both sugary/fatty AND part of an overall healthy meal. It's like adding things that taste good to foods that are healthful makes kids - and adults - more likely to eat it!

I want to make some kind of comment about being sad that the society we live in produces people who listen to "can be part of a healthy breakfast" and hear "must be 100% Healthy Food". That there is such a sharp divide between Healthy and Unhealthy that there could even be this misunderstanding in the first place. But honestly, I'm too busy giggling.


  1. came across your blog and I really enjoy it. love your honesty and boldness, its refreshing

  2. In my mind, Nutella is not nutritionally close to peanut butter, except in terms of calories. Peanut butter has (IIRC) about 9 grams of protein per serving, while Nutella has two, and nutella has way more sugar. (It's true that you often see peanut butter paired with jam, which raises the sugar content.)

    Nutella is also a much more processed food--peanut butter is basically peanuts, with a bit of salt, sometimes a bit of sugar, and sometimes a bit of oil so it doesn't separate. But the sugar and oil don't really change the nutrition information on the jar. The first two ingredients of Nutella are corn syrup and oil.

  3. Kris, that's true, I probably should have thought about that harder. But when all the article focuses on is calories and fat, it doesn't seem so far off. Point stands, Nutella never made any false health claims, and I hope this woman objects to syrup on waffles if she's suing about Nutella toast.