It’s Only Natural – to Sue People

Published August 29, 2013

Long-time followers of abusive lawsuits may recall the Nutella case, a California class action brought in 2012 against an Italian company called Ferrero that had introduced its brand of hazelnut chocolate spread way back in 1964.

By weight Nutella contains 67 percent saturated fat and processed sugar, and a two tablespoon serving – about enough to spread on two slices of toast – yields 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 21 grams of sugar. (In comparison, a typical chocolate-nut candy bar provides roughly 250 to 300 calories and 12 to 16 grams of fat.)

Nonetheless, Ferrero advertised that Nutella could be “part of a nutritious breakfast” – in the same way, we suppose, that sawdust and motor oil could be “part of a nutritious breakfast” of yogurt, orange juice, wheat toast, and a banana, provided you didn’t choke on the sawdust and skipped drinking the motor oil. (What Ferrero had in mind, most likely, was that spreading something that tastes good on your children’s whole-grain wheat toast, as pictured on its product label, would make them more likely to eat their wheat toast in the morning.)

So a health-conscious Californian brought a class action lawsuit for alleged false advertising, and Nutella, in the course of things, settled the case.

But perhaps Nutella has set a bad example, for in Palm Beach County, Florida, elementary schoolteacher Lisa Leo has now sought class action status for her lawsuit against Pepperidge Farms, alleging the company’s “Natural” Cheddar Goldfish crackers actually contain genetically modified soybeans.

Leo claims she bought the crackers monthly and paid a premium based on the “Natural” label, pictured nearby. But had she actually been enticed by the little label “Natural” and not by the huge name “Goldfish” or the image of the smiling fish wearing sunglasses, then might she not also have read the definition of “Natural” that appears just below the word itself: “NO ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVES”?

That would seem to say nothing about which kind of soybeans (or cheddar cheese) Pepperidge Farms uses; only that it doesn’t add artificial preservatives.

Of course, things could have been worse: at least she didn’t claim she was defrauded because her goldfish weren’t actually wearing little sunglasses.

Sources: Rachel Tepper, “Nutella Lawsuit: Ferrero Settles Class-Action Suit Over Health Claims For $3 Million“, The Huffington Post, 04/26/2012 5:44 pm, updated: 04/27/2012 11:47 am; Nicole Brochu, “Lake Worth mom sues over Goldfish ‘natural’ label”, Sun Sentinel, August 3, 2013.