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Verdict: Label fraud at Nutella prohibited from now on
The food company Ferrero was convicted by the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court for misleading the spread of Nutellla spread. The labels on the Nutella glasses have to be changed, otherwise Ferrero will face a fine of 250,000 euros per individual case.
The Federal Association of Consumer Advice Centers has brought an action before the court regarding the misleading presentation of the Nutella labels and has been confirmed in its opinion by the current judgment of the Higher Regional Court. According to the judge, the information on vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat content is also designed to deceive consumers. The decision (file number: 6 U 40/11) is not yet final and Ferrero has announced that it intends to appeal to the Federal Court of Justice in any case, but the signaling effect is already far-reaching.
Lots of sugar and fat, few vitamins and minerals According to the Oberlandesgericht, the information on the labels is actually misleading, since it suggests to consumers that the sweet chocolate spread contains significantly more healthy ingredients than is actually the case. On the Nutella labels, both the healthy and the rather unhealthy ingredients are given as percentages of daily needs, whereas there is nothing wrong with this at first glance. However, the data for the fat and carbohydrates contained refer to a portion of 15 grams, whereas the basis for the vitamin and mineral components printed in a different color is a portion of 100 grams. Since consumers often orientate themselves on the printed percentages, but do not pay attention to the underlying consumption, the conclusion is obvious that Nutella contains a lot of minerals and vitamins, whereas the fat and carbohydrate content is rather negligible, explained legal expert Susanne Einsiedler from the Federal Association of Consumer Centers. However, the opposite is the case. In order to achieve the stated percentages of the daily requirement for vitamins and minerals between 30 and 78 percent, 100 grams of Nutella would have to be consumed per day. In this case, however, significantly higher amounts of carbohydrates and fats would be absorbed. The amount of carbohydrates and the seven percent of fat, estimated at three percent of the daily requirement, would skyrocket significantly.
Ferrero will change the labels at Nutella Since the Federal Association of Consumer Centers sees a clear attempt to deceive consumers in the Nutella labels, the consumer advocates went to court and asked the food company to refrain from doing so. The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court now followed the plaintiffs in second instance and prohibited further use of the Nutella labels. A penalty of EUR 250,000 was imposed on a case-by-case basis if the Group did not respond. Although the judgment is not yet final, since Ferrero wants to appeal to the Federal Court of Justice in any case, the Nutella manufacturer has already announced that it will change the label design at the end of the year. The group is still convinced that the label design complies with the legal requirements and is transparent or understandable, but from the end of the year the nutritional information will generally be shown per serving on the Nutella labels, Ferrero said. As of next year, one or two consumers will probably be surprised at how much fat and carbohydrates Nutella actually contains and how vanishingly low the proportion of minerals and vitamins is.
Relevant deception by Nutella labels The fact that the judges of the Higher Regional Court followed the allegation of consumer protection is also due to the fact that in the typical purchase situation, for example in front of the supermarket shelves, customers lack the time to record the different information regarding the underlying consumption quantities , said the court's verdict. The judges followed the assessment of the Federal Association of Consumer Centers that there was a relevant misleading of consumers. The legal position in the Food and Feed Code is clear at this point. Food may not be placed on the market "under misleading names, statements or packaging". However, this is the case with the Nutella labels, since consumers could come to the conclusion that Nutella contains little sugar and fat, but a lot of vitamins and minerals. However, Nutella is by no means an isolated case. According to consumer advocates, food manufacturers are trying to convince customers of the advantages of their products with a variety of questionable methods and tricks. Misleading numbers on labels, pictures that promise anything other than what is inside, formulations that suggest the conclusion of particularly healthy products or small printed illegible information on contents with unfavorable ingredients are just a few examples that the Federal Association of Consumer Centers mentions.
Large food manufacturers often work with misleading tricks According to consumer advocates, large food manufacturers such as Nestlé, Unilever, Dr. Oetker, Danone and Ferrero repeatedly criticized for their questionable product design and advertising messages. The Stiftung Warentest and the consumer organization Foodwatch also warn of the countless misleading advertising promises made by the manufacturers. As examples, Foodwatch mentions on its website the “Biene Maja” children's yogurt from Bauer, which has since been withdrawn from the market, which was advertised as a balanced milk drink for children, but actually contained “44 sugar cubes per liter”, whereby “Cola compared to only 28” contains. Ferrero has also been the subject of frequent criticism at Foodwatch. The children's bar promises "snacking without a guilty conscience, thanks to the extra portion milk with a lot of good calcium", but in truth 13 bars would have to be eaten to meet the daily needs of a child for calcium, while the little ones at the same time "48 sugar cubes , half a packet of butter plus flavors and additives ”. According to Foodwatch, the milk wafers from Ferrero are a similar bogus pack. Lures milk cuts with the promise that is usually presented by top athletes in advertising: “Tastes light. Don't burden. Ideal for in between ”, the reality is very different. In fact, milk wafers contain around 60 percent fat and sugar, making them “more pure than chocolate cream cake,” says Foodwatch.
Food clarity reveals misconduct by food producers Another terrifying example of misleading product presentation was Gutfried's turkey cervelate sausage, because almost half of it consisted of pork, which was a particularly serious deception for Muslims because of the obligation to refrain from pork. Only the small print on the back showed that the supposed "turkey cervelat sausage" also contained pork. According to Foodwatch, almost 10,000 consumers complained about the turkey sausage before Gutfried responded. The new internet portal www.lebensmittelklarheit.de, which is also supported by the Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, should therefore help to identify and publicly denounce misconduct by manufacturers as quickly as possible. Here, consumers are expressly encouraged to participate. The enormous response to the new portal shows how often consumers feel deceived by food manufacturers. After the first 100 days, over 3,800 products had already been registered on Lebensmittelklarheit.de and in some cases the manufacturers had reacted immediately to the public complaints and adjusted their products accordingly. However, not all food producers are so insightful, so that if in doubt, going to court - as in the current case at Nutella - remains the last option to protect consumers. (fp)
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