A California court has ruled that Ferrero U.S.A. Inc., an affiliate of Nutella's Italian-based parent company should pay $4 to every person who purchased a jar of their chocolate spread between January 1, 2008 and February 3, 2012 in the United States.
The ruling came after a mother initiated a class-action to make the company pay for advertising their product as a "nutritious" product " and part of a "healthy breakfast."
Athena Hohenberg, a San Diego mother, said she was shocked to learn that contrary to the impression given by the company's advertisement, the product was not nutritious, but contained dangerous levels of saturated fat. According to CBS News, Hohenberg said she discovered it contained 21 grams of sugar, 200 calories, and 11 grams of fat (3.5 of which are saturated) per serving.
According to Hohenberg and her lawyers, Nutella has been falsely presenting their product as making a "balanced breakfast," while showing healthy looking families eating it with healthy foods such as fruits and whole wheat bread.
Daily Mail reports Hohenberg's lawyers said Nutella contains dangerous levels of saturated fat and sugar that have been contributing significantly to "America's alarming increase in childhood obesity." The product can cause type-2 diabetes, heart disease and other "serious health problems."
Hohenberg demanded that the company should stop advertising Nutella as a healthy and nutritious food and refund all the money they earned from their "fraudulent advertisement campaign."
According to Daily Mail, a Nutella TV commercial shows a blonde mother worrying about the challenges of preparing breakfast for her family. Then she recommends Nutella as a "delicious hazelnut spread perfect on multi-grain toast and even whole wheat waffles." The mother says: "It's a quick and easy way to give my family a breakfast they'll want to eat. And Nutella is made with simple, quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of cocoa. They love the taste, and I feel good that they're ready to tackle the day. Nutella — breakfast never tasted this good."
CBS News reports the settlement allows all persons in the United States who purchased Nutella between January 1, 2008 and February 3, 2010 (August 1, 2009 and January 23, 2012 for California residents) to file a claim and join the class action and claim their rewards until July 25, 2012. Those who join the class action will receive $4 for a single purchase and a maximum award of $20. Anyone who wants to join the class action can fill out their claim here. According to Yahoo! News "It seems that you don't even have to have a receipt."
CBS reports that the judge's decision has been widely criticized and the class-action ridiculed. Many are surprised that any mother would think that a chocolate-based spread is healthy and nutritious. LA Weekly says: "Here's a suggestion for the thousands of other litigious California mothers: Try a little responsible parenting. Try reading the labels and understanding what they mean." A disapproving reader comments on LA Weekly: "Her kids should sue her for being so... stupid. Lawsuits like this should be a crime. If you're too stupid to read a label, then you're also too stupid to make other adult decisions, by that alone, she should be deemed an unfit parent."
Another reader commented: "...also got the impression that drinking Bud Light makes hot chicks attracted to me, and that I can afford a Lexus. But it doesn't and I can't. Should I sue?"
Ferrero Inc. has agreed to modify the product's label and change its marketing statements about Nutella, create new ads and modify its website message.