California Mom Sues Nutella, Alleging Hyped Nutrition Claims

A California mother is taking Nutella to court, alleging that the popular sandwich spread purports to be a nutritious treat, but actually is loaded with unhealthy sugar and saturated fat.

A copy of the suit by Athena Hohenberg, which was obtained by AFP on Thursday, said she was "shocked to learn that Nutella was in fact, not 'healthy, nutritious' food, but instead was the next best thing to a candy bar, and that Nutella contains dangerous level of saturated fat."

Hohenberg is seeking refunds to be paid by parent company Ferrero to its legions of U.S. customers.

In its marketing, including in claims made on its website, Nutella touts its cocoa and hazelnut spread as ideal for busy moms trying to "nourish their children with whole grains" and says that "Nutella can form a part of a balanced meal."

On its website, Nutella lists its ingredients as sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.

The suit, filed in federal court in San Diego, alleges that many consumers of the product would not have purchased it had they been aware that the health claims surrounding it were overblown.

"Nutella was worth less than what plaintiff and members of the class paid for them," Hohenberg, the mother of a four-year-old child, said in her lawsuit, which she hopes to turn into a "class action."

Under the terms of such a class action suit, she asks that any monetary judgment against the company be divided among "all persons who purchased on or after January 2000 one or more Nutella products in the United States for their own or household use."

Hohenberg also wants the court to make Ferrero launch a new ad campaign, correcting the allegedly misleading claims.

Nutella was created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Italian Ferrero company.

Its nutrition label shows that there are about 200 calories in each two tablespoon serving, about half of which come from fat.

The suit notes that consumption of saturated fat has been shown to cause heart disease, and that consumption of processed sugar has been shown to cause type-2 diabetes.

Elise Titan, a spokesperson for Ferrero USA, said the company stands by the wholesomeness of its product.

"What we can say right now is that we stand behind the quality of ingredients in Nutella hazelnut spread and advertising for our product," she said.

"It's really early in the case and we are really not in position to discuss the case any further," she said.

NewsCore contributed to this story.