It probably comes as no surprise to hear that Nutella, the chocolate and hazelnut spread that tastes more like frosting, chocolate sauce and all those things that aren’t exactly healthy, is not good for you. The labels on Nutella suggest that it contains high percentages of vitamins and minerals (40 and 78 percent) but a low percentage of fats and carbohydrates (7 and 3 percent). But German consumer advocates point out that the fat and carbohydrate content on Nutella’s labels is based on a 15-gram portion, while the vitamin and mineral content is based on a 100-gram portion.
In other words, to get the nutrition benefits of Nutella proclaimed on the label, you would have to eat a quarter of a jar of Nutella.
A German court in Frankfurt has ruled that Ferrero, which manufactures Nutella, must change the label or incur a fine of 250,000 euros per transgression. The labels for fats and carbohydrates are printed in a different color than those for vitamins and minerals but, as consumer advocates point out, people would “not generally have the time while shopping to realize the difference between the measures referred — creating a relevant deceit.”
Ferraro Deutschland argued (not surprisingly) that it feels the current labels are sufficiently clear and plans to appeal the court’s decision. The company also said that it will change the labels at the end of the year.
Other Ferraro products have come under fire by consumer advocate groups for containing misleading nutritional information:
Ferrero’s KinderRiegel little chocolate bars are sold with the slogan, “Extra portion of milk with much good calcium” – but consumer protection group Foodwatch has calculated that a child would have to eat 13 of the bars to get a daily requirement of calcium. This would also involve consuming the equivalent of 48 cubes of sugar and half a packet of butter, the group claimed.
Germany’s Ministry of Consumer Protection is starting a new website, www.lebensmittelklarheit.de — the name translates to something like “food transparency” — through which consumers can submit the names of foods that they find misleading.
In addition, consumer advocates have critiqued Ferraro for its sponsorship of sporting events and its use of athletes (including Germany’s national soccer team) in its advertising as doing so creates a link between “fundamentally unhealthy products” and sports and health.
Nutella definitely tastes good. But so does a candy bar — and consumers need to be aware that there’s not much of a difference between the two.
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"The healthy spread": Photo by Markusraum