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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 02/14/2011

'Shocked' by Nutella

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Oh, come on.

That's my response to the lawsuit being brought by San Diego mom Athena Hohenberg against Ferrero, the makers of Nutella, the chocolate/hazelnut spread that's being advertised lately as making up part of a healthy breakfast.

Hohenberg says she was "shocked" -- shocked! -- when friends told her that Nutella really isn't very nutritionally sound, being full of fat and sugar. Hohenberg says Nutella's ad claims had misled her into repeatedly purchasing the spread to serve to her 4-year-old daughter, thinking she was providing a healthful breakfast for the child.

Nutella ads do suggest that Nutella can be part of a balanced, nutritious breakfast. The Nutella Web site makes the case that getting kids to eat something for breakfast is better than having them skip that meal, and that Nutella can make whole-grain toast more appealing to kids. (Ads touting Nutella as part of a healthful breakfast were challenged on similar grounds and withdrawn in the UK in 2008.) The site suggests pairing Nutella-spread toast (or whole-grain waffle) with strawberries and skim milk for a "balanced" breakfast. (It offers a build-your-breakfast tool that shows how different combinations of foods stack up, nutrition-wise, and how they fit into your daily requirements.)

Here's a quote from the lawsuit: "In or around December 2010, Ms. Hohenberg learned through friends what ingredients were in the Nutella that she was feeding her family. She was shocked to learn that Nutella was not in fact a 'healthy' 'nutritious' food but instead was the next best thing to a candy bar...."

Hohenberg needed her friends to point this out? Nutella's Nutrition Facts panel makes clear that the stuff's full of fat -- a 2-tablespoon serving has 200 calories, half of them from fat. (None of its fat is partially hydrogenated or of the "trans" variety.) All a person has to do is to look on the back of the jar to learn that much, and to see that Nutella is full of sugar, too -- 21 grams per serving.

I've grappled with Nutella's nutrition myself, having gotten hooked on the yummy confection when I visited France a few years ago. But I checked it out, determined it wasn't health food (despite containing hazelnuts, cocoa and skim milk) and agreed with myself to enjoy it in moderation.

There's a lot of this food-claim lawsuit-slinging going on lately, and I'm thinking it all might backfire. I can imagine reasonable people across the land getting their hackles up and defending foods that, while perhaps lacking in nutritional value, provide some modicum of pleasure.

What do you make of this latest litigation? Does it make you want to go stick a spoon in a jar of Nutella? Or do you think Hohenberg's got it right?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | February 14, 2011; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Sounds like that broad is looking for an out of court settlement of a few hundred grand. What a crock. I hope this is tossed out as frivolous. The moron should read the label and decide if it's suitable for her brats. Most sweetened cereals are nothing more than modified candy. Let's get real.

Posted by: mooncusser | February 14, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Can't Ms. Hohenberg read? The first thing you do when buying a new product is to READ THE LABEL. Any idiot can tell you a sugar-rich chocolate spread is not a healthy item to be eating for breakfast. But how many parents let their kids eat bowls full of Cocoa Puffs and Captain Crunch for breakfast? Nutella is good as a snack but certainly don't expect it to be a nutritious breakfast. Good grief. This woman only wants to get a big settlement. Give us a break.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | February 14, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

My daughter loves the stuff. She is 13, and understands that Nutella sure does taste good but is not good for you. How does she know this info? She read the label while spreading it on her toast and banana. The food market is full of hype and people with nutritional concerns should be skeptical and READ the label. I really don't have much sympathy for this mother - her child on the other hand . . . . . .

Posted by: mirebay | February 14, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

This lady needs to have a hot cup of coffee spilled in her lap.

Posted by: daveb59 | February 14, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

This is just another example of the culture we have created in which no one takes responsibility for thier own actions or well being anymore, and everyone thinks that the proper response to anything that happens is a lawsuit. I am surprised she is not asking the federal government to regulate Nutella and other nut based spreads so that she dosen't have to think about it anymore. What an irrresponsible idiot she must be, and I dare say eating Nutella for breakfast is probably the least of her children's problems.

Posted by: David90 | February 14, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

How should a society legislate personal responsibility? Come on people . . . they still teach reading in public schools as early as kindergarten. READ the label. That's what it's there for. How can you possibly believe only what you see on television in this day and age. Remember what P.T. Barnum said - there's one born every minute. Quit clogging up our legal system with frivolous law suits. This should be dismissed by the judge and the woman forced to pay the public cost of reviewing this case.

Posted by: ModernMom1 | February 14, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the litigant should sue her parents and/or her school district for letting her move on to adulthood without even the ability or sense to read a nutrition label. Her children should sue her for providing them with unhealthy food. Anything and everything to avoid responsibility for her own actions ...

Posted by: instanton | February 14, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I would deny the claim on the basis that the claimant is either just looking for money- or incompetent to actually discern what is healthy for her children to eat. Her children have not been harmed- maybe her ego has been bruised because all of her friends told her how stupid she is...

Posted by: poppysue85 | February 14, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

She should switch to Smucker's Hot Fudge Topping. 2 Tablespoons 130 calories, 40 calories from fat. 18 grams of sugar. No trans fat.

Posted by: readerl | February 14, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

How does it stack up to Skippy's or Peter Pan? The fat comes from a nut butter, after all.

Posted by: Erasma | February 14, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Yes the lawsuit is frivolous. That said, it is easy to simply say "read the food label." I teach an introductory nutrition course at a prestigious university and my students really struggle with reading food labels and interpreting them accurately. I must say I was at first stunned by this, but I have to meet the students where they are. We can't assume that *everyone* can read a food label and make healthier choices on their own.

Posted by: ChrisRD | February 14, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Oooohhhh Nutella! Yummmmm!

Posted by: TechFan | February 14, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely frivolous. The "concerned mommy" should learn how to read labels herself, and not believe everything TV tells her. Though, I do have a fabulous bridge in Brooklyn I think I could sell her...

It saddens me that this woman has children, who are now learning Mommy's "No Responsibility, Just Sue Everyone" mentality.

Posted by: MasonPatriot1 | February 14, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

This is a frivolous lawsuit. Anyone can read the label and determine that it isn't the most healthy choice.

The judge should take her child away as she is publicly proving she is an incompetent parent.

Posted by: BootmanDC | February 14, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

That is an interesting observation about some people having difficulty reading the nutritional labeling. that gives her case a little more credibility.

It is a little two faced the people who made comments about a nanny state mentality and all you have to do is read the labels. I remember when the nutritional labeling debate was going on and how conservatives said it represented government overreach, that a free market can take care of itself, and that if would put companies out of business, nananana etc. Kind of interesting that some conservative minded folks are now taking the labeling for granted when their kind argued against it years ago.

Posted by: mirebay | February 14, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Too many servings of TV is the root cause. I'm going to sue the government for not protecting my children from the drug of the nation that brainwashes its addicts with slick advertising to binge on fatty foods, emulate Disney soda pop stars and watch even more worthless programming.

Posted by: eDubfromKtown | February 14, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Companies do give out samples. They are looking to put their products in potential consumers' hands. They wouldn't do it if it didn't work one of the place that always worked is "123 Get Samples" search online

Posted by: annegonzales123 | February 15, 2011 1:59 AM | Report abuse

A birthday celebration turned into tragedy for a California couple when their daughter died from Nutella poisoning in San Diego, CA. Hazel Hohenberg, who was four years old, died this morning, while her father, who also overdosed on Nutella, is currently struggling for his life at Scripps Mercy Hospital.

The family was celebrating Hazel’s 4th birthday, and partook of a Nutella frosted cake, unaware of its artery-crushing characteristics. Hazel’s mother, Athena Hohenberg, served the saturated fat time bomb in liberal doses to her family, under the belief that the spread made up one of the four main food groups.

The victims started vomiting out liters of processed sugar in the wee hours of the morning, and little Hazel was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Ferrero, is in critical condition. The police has ruled out foul play, although Athena Hohenberg curiously replaced the frosting on her slice with a thin layer of peanut butter.

After this incident, many creperies throughout America are replacing their Nutella crepe offerings with deep-fried Yak lard, equally as unhealthy, but can never be misunderstood as nutritious, even to the stupidest consumer.

Posted by: Hazelnut1 | February 15, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Look, labels are not that hard to read and decipher: serving size, calories, calories from fat and total fat are the first pieces of information listed. If this woman didn't bother to read the label, it's her own fault. Is she alleging that she is illiterate? Because if not, she's just stupid.

Posted by: Katya2 | February 16, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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