Junk Food Outrage

February 18th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

A San Diego mom is furious that Nutella isn’t health food – and is now suing over it.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Ah, Nutella. That decadent chocolate and hazelnut spread that would make a car tire taste great. It’s a lot of things, but would you ever consider it health food? I wouldn’t.

But one San Diego mom is outraged it’s not, and she’s suing Ferrero, the makers of Nutella, for claiming that it is.  According to an article in Canada’s Globe and Mail, Athena Hohenberg claims she was “shocked” to learn that Nutella was actually “the next best thing to a candy bar.” She hopes the claim will become a class action lawsuit.

I’ll admit to a chuckle when I’ve seen the Nutella commercials. Here, two busy moms scramble to feed chaotic households, saying that when they put Nutella on things like “whole wheat toast” and “whole grain waffles,” they feel better about feeding their families because their kids will eat it. Watch the commercials a couple of times. No one’s claiming that Nutella itself is nutritious; they’re saying it’s delicious and implying, at best, that it masks the taste of the nutritious things kids probably wouldn’t make a beeline for otherwise.  Yes, they show healthy images like the skim milk and hazelnuts “and a dash of cocoa” that go into the spread, but does anyone really think that Nutella is just made of skim milk, nuts and cocoa?

Travis Saunders of ObesityPanacea.com noted in 2009 (long before the lawsuit) that, “after sugar, the second most common ingredient in Nutella is palm oil. The same palm oil which is high in palmitic acid, a fatty acid which the World Health Organization claims is convincingly linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, roughly half the calories in Nutella are from sugar, and the other half are from fat.” Delicious? He asks. Yes. But nutritious? Probably not.

But then, anyone who can read the back of a jar can tell you what Saunders can. Nutella is not a big jar of vitamins. It’s a big tub of delicious fat and sugar that Ferrero is suggesting you put on your kids’ health food to make it more palatable. As Saunders says, “….anything can be part of a complete breakfast!”

In fact, suggests Richard Gorelick of The Baltimore Sun, if Nutella were healthy, your kids wouldn’t want to eat it. “Whole Foods Market used to promote this other kind of chocolate hazelnut spread that was a much better-made product -- not hydrogenated oils, nothing artificial. And it was completely without appeal. Nutella is so good because it's bad.”

Weigh in on this lawsuit and check out the commercials for yourself. Do you think that most moms would interpret Nutella as health food?