The mother of a four-year-old child filed a federal class action lawsuit alleging that Nutella falsely marketed its hazelnut spread as healthy for children, even though the product contains saturated fat and processed sugar.

The plaintiff claims she repeatedly bought Nutella for herself and her child because she “sought a healthy snack or breakfast alternative for her household.” She relied upon a labeling statement that presented Nutella as “an example of a tasty yet balanced breakfast.” The statement was combined with images of whole wheat bread, juice, and fresh fruits, according to the complaint.

Nutella also made “healthy meal” claims on television and on a Web site by portraying a mother feeding the spread to “happy, healthy children.” The plaintiff claimed she was “shocked” to learn that Nutella was “the next best thing to a candy bar” and contained roughly 70 percent saturated fat and processed sugar.

Her complaint states that these ingredients could “create a substantial health risk, raise cholesterol levels, cause disease, damage the heart, and increase the risk and severity of type-2 diabetes.”

Alleging violations of state advertising law, the suit seeks to certify a class of consumers who purchased the product dating back to January 2000. The suit requests monetary damages (including punitive damages), and makes a demand for a corrective advertising campaign and an order enjoining Nutella from making certain marketing claims.

To read the complaint in Hohenberg v. Ferrero USA, click here.

Why it matters: While Ferrero USA, the maker of Nutella, did not comment specifically about the lawsuit, a spokesperson told The National Law Journal that the company “stand[s] behind the quality and ingredients of Nutella hazelnut spread and the advertising of our product.” The issue of health claims related to children is a hot topic; the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign geared toward reducing childhood obesity and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Innovations for Healthy Kids” campaign are at the forefront of this initiative.