Unplug the Ad and Read the Label

The manufacturer of Nutella® was sued in a class action lawsuit and agreed to pay $3.5 million over false advertising. As a result, they must change their marketing statements and clean their website and television commercials of any misleading nutritional and health claims.

Companies highlight the positives in their products, if any, and not the negatives.  That’s what they do. Therefore, parents have to be their own vigilant consumer watchdogs.

Companies position themselves in the marketplace and appeal to the buyers’ emotions. Nutella was attempting to find a position somewhere between peanut butter and jelly. They targeted parents looking for new breakfast/snack alternatives. Advertising is a competitive multimillion-dollar business and deceptive or “clever” advertising exists in every industry.

“Safe” Until Proven Toxic

Consider cosmetic ads and commercials, for example. Cosmetic companies try to position their products as the champions of women’s self-esteem, hope, and youth. But neither their products nor their ingredients are approved or tested for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market. How are these seductive ads with ‘misleading’ claims any more false than Nutella’s?  

The ingredients on cosmetic labels are nearly impossible to decipher unless you’re familiar with chemical compounds. In this case, it’s more difficult to be a sharp consumer. Also, contrary to the strict regulations in the food industry, fragrance companies are not required to disclose ANY of their ingredients — many of which contain volatile petrochemicals and are the primary selling point in cosmetics.

As a parent, feeding your kids healthy food ultimately rests on your shoulders. Advertisers are smart. Just as you may tell your kids when they’re enticed by toy and sugar-coated cereal commercials that they can’t believe everything they see on television, neither can you.

In the case of Nutella, the claimant said, “If I stop to read every label, I’d probably spend four to five hours in the grocery store.” By reading just the first two or three ingredients though, you can quickly evaluate the health benefits of most food products.

Nutella’s product label lists SUGAR as the first ingredient, followed by PALM OIL. That’s a cue that this is a sweet treat, not a healthy breakfast food. Nutella even looks like chocolate sauce.

Smart shopping doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, laborious experience. A little common sense and diligence can go a long way in raising healthy kids.

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