It Pays to be a Label Reader


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  62 comments   :  25,789 Views

I often get teased by friends and family when they offer my children new foods.  My kids always look to me first to see if its okay, and many times I like to read the label before telling them they can dig in. Whether it’s a treat, a snack or something else, I just like to know what my kids are eating.  I’m not crazy about it and they try new foods frequently, but I do work hard to make sure they have a healthy, balanced diet most of the time. 

Recently we were visiting some family and they had Nutella on the breakfast table.  My daughter loves to try new things, so she wanted to spread it all over her toast.  “It’s just like peanut butter!  I saw commercials for this stuff and it’s very healthy!” was one response when I said I wanted to look at the jar before she ate it.  My first thought was “Geez, this stuff has as much sugar as a candy bar”, and she didn’t need tons of it to start her day.  I didn’t argue with the person who suggested she eat it, but rather just said that she could try a bite and eat peanut butter on her toast instead.   

I never take someone else’s (or an ad’s) word for it when they say something is “natural” or “healthy”.  I like to do my own detective work, and in this instance I was glad that I did.   When I read that Ferrero (the company that makes Nutella) was sued for deceptive advertising and recently decided to settle, I was not completely surprised.
Last year, a California mom sued Ferrero for being misled by product claims that portrayed Nutella as healthy and part of a balanced diet.   Her lawsuit was recently awarded class-action status by the courts, a move that is not without controversy.  The Nutella label clearly states how much sugar and fat is in the product (21 grams of sugar and half of the calories from fat, per serving), and the ingredients list sugar and palm oil first.  Ferrero has chosen to settle for $3 million, and will also change nutrition labels and ads as part of the agreement. 

So is it the consumer’s responsibility to read the label, or the company’s responsibility to be truthful in advertising?  Or maybe a little of both?  In this case, the court sided with the consumer. 

I think it’s important for each of us to educate ourselves about the products we’re putting in our shopping carts.  Don’t rely on other people to tell you whether or not something is good for you- do the homework yourself.  Not sure where to start?  Check out How to Read a Nutrition Facts Label and take this quiz to find out whether or not you can interpret food labels. 
What do you think?  Do you agree with the court’s decision?

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  • 12
    I don't agree with the court, mainly because I think it's our responsbility as consumers to read labels and know what we are eating. It would be like McDonald's having to pay people for making them gain weight! I automatically read labels when I go to the store (if it's something that I'm not familiar with). I started to buy some V-8 Fusion (I think that what it was--or something similar to that) because the label on the front said that it had X servings of fruit and veggies. Then I read the label and saw that each serving had about 35 grams of sugar. No way! (Years ago, Jif or some other PB company used to make a peanut butter/chocolate spread. It's been discontinued for years--at least I haven't been able to find it--and I'm sure that it was loaded with as much sugar as Nutella, but, boy, that stuff was tasty!) - 6/5/2012   8:42:45 PM
    I think people have to be smart enough to know the difference between advertising gimmicks and healthy food. If you are having 1 piece of toast, with 1 serving (or less), then this could be healthy. What I see, are people eating multiple servings because the serving size doesn't seem like "enough" for them. I've also read studies that say starting your morning with something sweet makes you less likely to crave sweets the rest of the day! - 6/5/2012   8:11:55 PM
  • 10
    I don't agree with the court's decision at all. I think Nutella CAN be part of a healthy breakfast, as the term "healthy" is very subjective. I think it is the consumer's responsibility to read the labels. Healthy for one person may not be healthy for another person, you know? - 6/5/2012   7:16:25 PM
  • BKENT37
    I fully agree with your assessment that it is, at least in part, the consumer should be responsible. I happened to have a similar situation today at work. Our cafeteria always has a "healthy" soup option and normally I would call it healthy. Today they had a white bean chili but it had over 10 grams of fat for 12 ounces. Even if it was healthy fat, to me that was a lot of fat when I aim for around 42 grams a day.

    Labels and titles do not mean everything as it could be healthy for some but not for others or just not within the diet. Great points in the blog and I am glad you watch what your children eat! - 6/5/2012   5:31:19 PM
  • 8
    I was aware of this product and always wanted to try it. I saw some on sale, I think it was buy one, get one free. So I picked it up and read the label. I was shocked! Even getting one free is no bargain with a product that high in sugar. I put it right back on the shelf.

    I do believe that we all have to be responsible for what goes in our shopping carts. Even a product like this could be enjoyed - in very small amounts on as a special treat. But I don't think it should be advertised as a "healthy food". - 6/5/2012   3:52:22 PM
  • 7
    I was aware of this product and always wanted to try it. I saw some on sale, I think it was buy one, get one free. So I picked it up and read the label. I was shocked! Even getting one free is no bargain with a product that high in sugar. I put it right back on the shelf. - 6/5/2012   3:49:54 PM
  • 6
    Consumers should read the labels. Companies should also be held to a standard for advertising. - 6/5/2012   3:18:51 PM
  • 5
    This wasn't just about Nutella, but a message to ALL companies to be truthful to buyers. MORE AND MORE OF THE INGREDIENTS IN OUR FOOD COMES FROM CHINA, where there is NO EPA and we have to know what is going into our food. In China they have had plastic added to baby formula that killed children there, so we have to know what we are eating here. I read labels to see if it comes from China like MANY seafood items do and I DON'T buy it. - 6/5/2012   3:00:51 PM
  • 4
    Decades ago, long before Nutella was in the American market, my sister would bring it back from Europe as a treat, and it was a very big deal.. I learned to love the chocolate/hazelnut combination. I don't know why I didn't start scarfing it down all the time when it showed up in my local stores - but recently I did look at the label, and was shocked at all the weird ingredients listed.. There's a small company near me that makes a GREAT hazelnut butter, and last year they started making a chocolate version - two ingredients, roasted hazelnuts and chocolate. MMMM ! big plug here for Hazelnut Hill of Oregon.

    As for the court's decision, I lean toward thinking that people need to be responsible for their own actions, and not expect to be protected by the government for every little thing. But I also think that "deceptive advertising" does describe quite well the commercials I've seen of happy little kids spready "healthy" Nutella for breakfast. Guess it depends on how the laws of your state are written. - 6/5/2012   2:51:09 PM
  • CINDYB3511
    i think it goes both ways. - 6/5/2012   2:50:59 PM
  • 2
    I didn't agree with the courts decision - even though companies should be held accountable for false advertisement, I believe that we as consumers have to educate ourselves about what we are about to eat. Because regardless of their advertisement the truth is right on the label. - 6/5/2012   2:45:51 PM
  • 1
    I think every company should be made accountable for what it produces and advertises. I ate Nutella one time. Then I read the jar and didn't touch it again. - 6/5/2012   2:25:11 PM

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