Are Sugar and Palm Oil really part of a “balanced breakfast?”

Nutella has the nutrition profile of a chocolate bar (and that’s probably an insult to the chocolate bar). But according to their latest advertising, we are supposed to be feeding it to our kids as part of a “balanced breakfast.”

The ad says Nutella contains “premium Hazelnuts, cocoa and the goodness of milk” (cue artistic shots of milk, nuts and cocoa pouring out of the sky). The actual ingredient list looks a little more like this

sugar (50%), palm oil (called “Vegetable Oil” on the label), hazelnuts (13%), skim milk powder (8.7%), fat-reduced cocoa powder (7.4%), emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavouring (vanillin)

I guess a shot showing ribbons of sugar, palm oil and hazelnuts is less artistically appealing (no matter how much more accurate it would be).

In 2008, a remarkably similar advertisement in the UK provoked 53 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). People said that the ad was misleading because it did not make clear that the product was high in sugar and fat.

The ASA agreed and found that as the ad had only mentioned hazelnuts, skimmed milk and cocoa powder (when in fact it had a high sugar and fat content) it was indeed misleading. The Authority decided therefore that the advertisement should no longer be shown on British television.

Of course (when similar complaints were lodged regarding an almost identical commercial here) the Australian equivalent of the ASA decided there was nothing wrong with the ad because it “carefully” used the phrase “balanced breakfast” rather than saying it was a “healthy” breakfast.

On the basis of that reasoning, soft drinks could be advertised as a part of a healthy (sorry, I mean balanced) breakfast for children because they contain (quite a lot of) water.

(Australian) Industry self-regulation clearly leaves a little to be desired. So I’ll be putting all my complaints via the ACCC in future. They may take longer but at least they appear to get it right in the end.

I very much doubt that anybody suffers under the impression that a chocolate bar is a healthy breakfast for children (or anybody else). But chocolate bar purveyors are not flooding our screens with ads suggesting they are.

Nutella contains (cumulatively) lethal amounts of sugar and palm oil (which has been implicated in the destruction of Orang-utan habitats). I’m struggling to think of a food less suitable for consumption at all, let alone as part of a ‘balanced’ breakfast for our children.

If they must advertise the stuff then at the very least, Ferrero (the maker of Nutella) should be forced to emphasise the real ingredients rather than a highly selective cherry-picking of the healthier ones (used largely for flavouring).

You can’t blame Ferrero for giving this a go. Clearly (in Australia, at least) they are within their rights. But we need more than a toothless tiger (with a propensity for legalistic interpretation) ‘safeguarding’ our ability to make informed choices.

If Ferrero is allowed to advertise sugar and palm oil as “skimmed milk and (fat reduced) cocoa”, what else is being pushed at us with (legally finetuned) definitions hiding behind the advertising puff? We deserve better.

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • mick says:

    like the Australian heart foundation, the advertising standards board is probably run for the benefit of those advertising their food products. Their recommendations bear little resemblance to reality

  • with advertising its quite specific Mick. The advertisers voluntarily pay a percentage (of their ad spend) to fund the Advertising Standards Bureau … If they started upholding loads of complaints, I cant see the advertisers thinking they were getting value for money … can you?

  • mick says:

    that’s terrible, my cynicism wasn’t supposed to be reality. But as Humphrey Appelby once said, A cynic is what an idealist calls a realist.

  • wildrover says:

    13 days in at least 2-3 kgs lighter. No hunger pangs. Yay! However my cyncism levels as I paged through the “Health’ supplement of my Sunday paper re “low fat” went through the roof. Am speading the “gospel” according to Gillespie. Love ya work!

  • vvs says:

    It is important in light of a balanced breakfast, which uses high-quality protein (eggs, nuts, lean meat / fish or chicken), as thaw more slowly will help you feel better longer. Secondly, are complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits and vegetables), most people do not have enough fiber to start adding these for breakfast help you more closely. Healthy fats (milk, olive oil and avocado) in the morning with breakfast has been found to reduce total fat intake during the day.

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  • I was just perusing the Sugar Busters book, and they use Nutella as an example of a healthy breakfast food. I suspect I’ll be tossing that book into the bin.

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