Italian confectioner Ferrero has been ordered by a German court to change the labelling on its Nutella brand or face €250,000 fines per individual case.
The Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt ruled that Ferrero had mislead consumers by showing daily recommended intake for vitamin and mineral content for every 100g portion while giving fat and carbohydrate content for every 15g portion.
This was deemed to have given the impression that Nutella was high in vitamins and minerals, but low in fats and carbohydrates.
Nutella labels had put vitamin and mineral content at 40% and 70% respectively for every 100g and fats while giving fats and carbohydrates for every 15g at 7% and 3% respectively.
Watchdog groups said a consumer would need to eat a quarter of a jar to reach the level of vitamins and minerals on the label.
The verdict followed a complaint from the Federation of Consumer Organisations (VZBZ).
Although, vitamin and fat content were presented in different colours on the label, it was not enough to convince the court.
The company said in response to questions from ConfectioneryNews.com: “Ferrero is a responsible and transparent company that focuses to fully satisfy its consumers.
“In front of the findings of the VZBZ and notwithstanding the absolute legislate conformity of the German Nutella label, confirmed by the tribunal in the first instance, Ferrero Germany has however decided to improve the German label.”
“By the end of 2011 a new label will be introduced in the German market, with an indication of all the nutrients for the same quantity of product,” it said.
Asked whether Ferrero would change Nutella labels in other countries, the company said: “The case in Germany does not apply in other countries, where the Nutella labelling already communicates the micro and macro nutrients on either per portion or by local requirements.”
Plans to appeal
Ferrero said that it intends to appeal the decision as an earlier ruling had reached a different decision.
“Ferrero regrets that the Regional High Court of Frankfurt has pronounced different conclusions from the first grade Court on the labelling of the German Nutella jars. On this basis we now appeal to the last grade of justice, “it told this site.
Misleading advertising claims
Consumer protection groups have criticised Ferrero In the past for sponsoring sporting events and athletes, which they claim makes children associate unhealthy products with health and nutrition.
One group, Foodwatch, criticised Ferrero for using the slogan “Extra portion of milk with much good calcium” (German translation) on its small chocolate bars, Kinderreiegel.
The group claimed a child would need to eat 13 bars to achieve the daily intake of calcium, equivalent to 48 sugar cubes, it said.