First, They Came For The Nutella

This week Ferrero, maker of Nutella, agreed to pay over three million dollars when they settled two separate class-action lawsuits (one in California and another covering the rest of the United States):

“The complaint is that this ad and others like it play up the healthiness of  the breakfast those adorable kids are eating, while neglecting to mention that the few tablespoons of Nutella on their toast contains 200 calories, 11 grams of  fat (3.5 grams saturated) and 21 grams of sugar,” commented Consumerist.com. “That’s comparable to a Three Musketeers candy bar.”

Ferrero has agreed to change its marketing campaign, modify the Nutella  label, modify certain marketing statements about Nutella, create new television  ads, and change the Nutella website.

Shoppers who bought Nutella between Jan. 1, 2008, and Feb. 3, 2012 (Aug. 1,  2009, and Jan. 23, 2012 if you live in California) can file a claim and join the  class action, according to the official notice from the company.

Here is the commercial to which the previous excerpt refers:

And here is an excerpt from the actual complaint:

8. Nutella is deceptively marketed, advertised, and sold to Plaintiff and the other Class members as a “healthy” and “nutritious” food.

9. The central message of Defendant’s marketing and advertising is that Nutella is a “wholesome” food product and can be served as part of a “balanced” and “nutritious breakfast.”

10. In Nutella’s marketing and advertising, Defendant omits that the nutritional value claimed, if any, is not derived from Nutella, but is instead derived from other foods or drinks (e.g., whole grain breads, fruit and milk) which are advertised to be consumed along with Nutella.

11. Defendant’s claims regarding Nutella are false and misleading because they omit that Nutella contains high levels of saturated fat, the consumption of which has been shown to increase the blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol have been shown to increase one’s risk of hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke.

12. Defendant’s claims regarding Nutella are also false and misleading because they omit that Nutella contains over 55% processed sugar, the consumption of which has been shown to cause type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

13. Indeed, the serving size, 2 tablespoons, contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat — 3.5 of which are saturated fat (18% of your daily recommended value) — and 21 grams of sugar.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that all of the nutritional information above was plainly available to the plaintiff on the label, let’s take a look at how these numbers compare with some other breakfast foods.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, for example, is advertised in the following commercial as “part of this good breakfast” (the image shows a bowl of cereal, an orange, and a glass of milk):

Here is the nutrition label for Cinnamon Toast Crunch:

And just so we’re completely clear, the serving size is 3/4 cup.  Here’s what 3/4 cup of Cinnamon toast crunch looks like in a bowl:

Since it would takeat leasttwo servings to come anywhere close to filling the bowl, there is a minimum of 20 grams of sugar and 260 calories in a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch (without milk).

And what about all that saturated fat in Nutella?  One whole hard-boiled egg has 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat, meaning that a serving of Nutella has about the same amount of fat as two eggs (without the cholesterol), not an unreasonable breakfast by most standards.

Is Nutella a “healthy” breakfast by itself?  Most people would probably agree that the answer is no (just as they would probably agree that nothing but eggs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast is not “healthy”).  Ferrero, however, went out of its way to show what does make a healthy breakfast, both in the commercial and on the label:

Any reasonable consumer should be able to figure out that the thing made out of chocolate and sugar is making the breakfast “tasty” while the other items listed are making it “balanced”, which is what makes this entire class-action lawsuit laughable.  Then again, we live in a country where a certain fast food chain thinks we can’t we can’t tell the difference between chicken and kale, and we have a government that agrees.

If you have bought Nutella in the last four years and are disgusted by this settlement, or at a minimum think that consumers should have some responsibility to read nutrition labels, you can file an objection:

If you are a Settlement Class Member and do not request exclusion, you or your attorney on your behalf may object to the Settlement. Such objection must be in writing and must provide evidence that you are a Settlement Class Member. The procedures for submitting a written objection are identified below. A written and signed objection (and any support for it) must be filed with the Court and served on all of the following attorneys with a postmark no later than June 8, 2012:

[see link above for list of attorneys]

Any objection regarding or related to the Settlement Agreement shall contain a caption or title that identifies it as “Objection to Class Settlement in re Nutella Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, Civil Action No. 3:11-cv-01086-FLW-DEA” and shall also contain information sufficient to identify the objecting Settlement Class Member, as well as a clear and concise statement of the Settlement Class Member’s objection, the facts supporting the objection, and the legal grounds on which the objection is based. If an objecting party chooses to appear at the hearing, then a notice of intention to appear, either in person or through an attorney, must be filed with the Court and list the name, address and telephone number of the attorney, if any, who will appear.

This is one class I definitely don’t want to be a member of.

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