It Pays to be a Label Reader

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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SHERRY152 2/22/2021
Today, even reading labels won't keep you from the things you are trying to avoid.

I had noticed that my butter seemed firmer recently and though it was because I keep my house fairly cool but apparently the issue maybe an ingredient that won't show up on the label. A local chef had an article in the newspaper last week regarding the presence of palm oil in feed for dairy cattle. It's thought that this may be evidence of the palm oil affecting milk products.

So hard to protect yourself. Report
Even though this is an old article, I read labels religiously. Manufacturers are always trying to slip something by you. As an example, ground beef. I've seen many packages that said, vegetarian fed. Exactly what does that mean ? nothing really. It means the cow was fed corn meal. which is vegetarian, but not the natural food of a cow. A cow should be eating grass. a label should say 100% grass fed, not vegetarian.

Labels can be very misleading. it's all about finding ways to sell a product. You have to be a savvy consumer when shopping. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 2/22/2021
I try to check labels but it gets very time consuming Report
GETULLY 2/22/2021
We always read labels and some are a real hoot! Report
NEPTUNE1939 2/22/2021
ty Report
It really is interesting reading labels. I've been doing that the last few years and it's incredible what companies try to pass off as "healthy". Report
CECELW 12/29/2020
Obviously, serving size is everything~ Report
JAMER123 12/8/2020
Thank you for sharing. Report
ARNETTELEE 11/5/2020
thanks Report
KOALA_BEAR 10/10/2020
I agree w/ the court decision. Some labels still are deceptive like portiin size. My BF bought a shrimp Flatbread t GG at said 3 servings in the box. It was really one good sized portion, manufacturer wanted a low calorie # on the front. Report
MJ7DM33 10/10/2020
Thanks Report
7STIGGYMT 10/10/2020
The most important thing on the label is Serving Size... without that, nothing else on the label is accurate. Report
CECELW 10/10/2020
I don't always read the labels. Depends on if I have tried the product before or not Report
Thank you Report
NEPTUNE1939 10/10/2020
ty Report
DEE2019 7/4/2020
I totally agree. When my doctor put me on a very low sodium diet I discovered, by reading labels that none of the foods labeled Healthy this or that are even close to being healthy for me! And when I quit eating pork and beef I discovered that most turkey sausages are cased in pork or beef casings. I learned to use the ones labeled skinless. Report
RO2BENT 7/4/2020
Gotta know the nutritional consequences of putting it in your mouth Report
AZMOMXTWO 7/4/2020
thank you Report
MWHIGGINS 7/4/2020
The devil is always in the details! Report
RCLYKE 7/4/2020
Great info Report
When it's plant based I only read where it's from, I try to keep it American made or grown. I stay away from processed food. And I don't eat meat. I try to do the best I can in this unhealthy world we live in today. Also growing my own helps too. Report
Great article. Report
Thanks Report
EMGERBER 7/4/2020
I read food labels I think it is important that company be transparent on what in in the product they are selling. Report
PIKA1319 7/4/2020
If you're stupid enough to believe Nutella is "healthy", you don't deserve cash, you deserve to be fat & unhealthy.

Nothing wrong with reading labels, because they can be surprising and yes, companies should not be deceptive, but really, take some personal responsibility! Common sense & logic, try using it! Report
INGMARIE 7/4/2020
I think it is the consumers responsibility. to read label before buying and eating something. That amount awarded was WAY to much. A small fine and an order to change wording on the label should been enough. Report
NASFKAB 7/4/2020
Great Report
I started reading food labels after I joined SP. Most of them have ingredients I can't even pronounce, let alone know what they are. I realize foods have preservatives and fillers added but I want to know what I am eating. And some stuff sounds very unhealthy to me. The fewer the additives, the better it sounds to me. Report
Lots of great info Report
Too bad Nutella is not a health food. I could eat the whole jar, lol. Report
Reading labels is important when dieting. Report
Been reading labels for awhile now. My health needs have changed and so has my diet. I can be seen flipping boxes, cartons, or cans around to read the label before the items are purchased. As a result, I spend more time shopping then before. Report
I've learned how to read labels on SparkPeople, which I really appreciate, but I also feel it is my responsibility to research any item that I may question. If I am deceived, I feel is because I didn't do my homework. Report
Advertising works, we all need to do our part and know what we are eating. The closer to the natural state of your food, the less you need to worry about what's in it. Report
Have to read all labels before buying any food Report
Labels are there for a reason - we're supposed to read them. Even though I know that intellectually, there are times when I don't. This happens especially when I'm in a hurry or when I'm very tired. When I do read them once I'm home, I could kick myself for buying something I can't or shouldn't eat. Report
Sometimes it is amazing how much sugar is in something Report
I remember reading it was a hazelnut spread and thought it would be good. Until I read the label. Report
I remember this ad and my son asked if he could eat it for breakfast and actually quoted the ad saying it was part of a nutrition breakfast. I remember explaining to him how ads are designed to sell and that you can’t believe everything you hear in them. If it’s too good to be true it usually is. It is ridiculous what people try to sue for these days. It truly is the quintessential American disease. Report
Helpful! Report
I only partially agree with the court. They should have to change their advertising but the consumer should not be awarded any money except maybe what she paid for a jar. I read all labels but if you have kids it can be hard to deal with when the commercials are aimed at them. Nutella spread on anything is not healthy. In no way is it ever part of a healthy breakfast. But the courts in this country have lost their minds. They award money to people for the stupidest reasons then wonder why prices are high or companies go out of business. As the consumer it is our responsibility to ultimately protect ourselves. Report
You need to be informed about what you ingest. Report
I love Nutella! But I would never consider anything creamy and chocolaty as being healthy. I use it as a treat. Just like if you buy your kids a sugary cereal with a cartoon character and then wonder why they are sick or suffering from food related issues, it is your fault! You bought it, you served it, you are responsible. The bigger problem is that too many people just do not care what is in their foods. They just buy what appeals to them or is convenient. I am just as guilty as the next person, we all are. The difference is that I and many people on this site are more focused on what it is we eat or feed to our family. You cannot blame the food producers for our willingness to put blinders on. Report
I think if you or your children are going to ingest a product, it is up to a parent to read the label first. When I took a retailing class in high school, yes it was so long ago that subjects were not given fancy names; the first thing we learned was that retailing was about 'successful selling' now called marketing, and that was something to the saying "Let the buyer beware." I think the court's decision misplaced blame. Report
It is called critical thinking - enough said!
The Nutella commercial doesn't say the stuff is healthy. It says it can be part of a healthy breakfast when you spread it on whole-wheat toast, which I guess has an element of truth in it. All the same I laughed when I first saw the ad - anyone who's tried Nutella knows it's a spreadable candy bar. We can all make an impulse buy, but not having time to read a label while shopping doesn't excuse never reading it at all. The court's decision is absurd. Report
As long as the company has the correct nutrition on the label, then there is no way that a consumer should be able to sue for the product being unhealthy. The whole point of advertising is to make someone buy your product. I'm smart enough to know that sugary cereal, soda and snacks are not good for me. If I see a commercial that tells me otherwise, I ignore it. No one is forcing you to buy their product. Take some responsibility for yourself. When people sue over nutrition issues or act as though they can't be responsible for themselves, this gives the government even more reason to want to step in and tell us what we can and cannot eat. Report
Once upon a time it would have been ridiculous for anyone to consider Nutella a healthfood, not just due to the sugar or fat but because it's chocolate. But ever since the carpetbomb of press on how healthy chocolate is, that's no longer a given. Everyone used to know that chocolate is nasty without a bunch of sugar and fat. While bitterer chocolate is available now, you probably couldn't get the average kid to eat it. (Funny how medical research started being funded after the slave free chocolate controversy, but I digress).

Peanut butter is not that great either, I still have it now and then but it's an indulgence. Report
I think the amount of money awarded was extreme but, if such an award is to be given, it should be used for public education. I read labels because my mother did and I learned it was a smart thing to do. However, if you are never taught why you should do this, it doesn't occur to you. I have educated many young women in their 20s (many with children) to read labels, especially when they develop health issues. They are surprised to find salt, sugar and fat in products like spaghetti sauce. I told them these substances are cheap fillers. Things like this are not taught in school and should be as it's evident that modern food and inactivity has led to early-onset diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Yes, consumers should be on guard and read labels, and yes manufacturers should be punished for advertising "healthy" when a product is far from healthy. As an aside, my husband picked up a jar of Nutella a couple of days ago and said "I had a sample of this once and it was pretty good. Should we buy it?" I told him to read the label and watched his expression change as he put it back on the shelf. He was shocked at the high fat and sugar content. Nuf said. Report
Once again, the courts or government has decided that people are stupid and need to be cared for. We can all become automatons and have no reason to think, because somebody else can do it for us! Personally, I prefer to think for myself (and read the label.) Report