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Nutella faces lawsuit over 'healthy' claims

Nutella is produced by chocolate maker Ferrero. Since 1964, when it first came out, it has been a favorite of Italians and a classic snack for generations of children.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The makers of the hazelnut-spread Nutella are facing a class-action lawsuit in the United States over ads that claim the chocolaty product is "nutritious" and part of a "healthy breakfast."

Lawyers for plaintiff Athena Hohenberg, a San Diego mother of a four-year-old, filed the claim in U.S. District Court in California this week against Ferrero U.S.A. Inc., an affiliate of Italian-based Ferrero International SA.

In her statement of claim, Ms. Hohenberg says she was "shocked to learn" from friends "that Nutella was in fact not a 'healthy,' 'nutritious' food but was instead the next best thing to a candy bar."

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The claims have not been proven in court, and the case has not been certified by a judge as a class action.

The lawyer who filed the lawsuit, Ron Marron, could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Ferrero also could not be reached.

According to the Wall Street Journal's website, Ferrero USA declined to comment on the lawsuit specifically. But a spokeswoman, Elise Titan, said "We stand behind the quality and ingredients of Nutella hazelnut spread and the advertising of our product."

In advertising and labelling that the lawsuit calls "misleading," Nutella is shown as part of a "tasty yet balanced breakfast" alongside fresh fruit, whole wheat bread and juice.

Nutella's TV ads also show "a mother feeding Nutella to happy, healthy children," the lawsuit says.

The spread, long an iconic product in its native Italy and immensely popular across Europe, "contains dangerous levels of saturated fat," the suit claims, and "over 55 % processed sugar."

Those ingredients, the suit says, "significantly contribute to America's alarming increase in childhood obesity" and can cause heart disease, type-2 diabetes and other "serious health problems."

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The lawsuit demands that Ferrero be forbidden from advertising Nutella as "healthy" or "nutritious" and launch a "corrective advertising campaign." It also demands the restitution of "all monies from the sale of Nutella, which were unjustly acquired through acts of unlawful, unfair and/or fraudulent competition."

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About the Author
Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More

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