The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a very personal — some might even say invasive — question to ask you. It wants to know how much Nutella you eat.
For those deprived folks who don’t know, Nutella is a thick, delicious, nut-butter spread that just tastes like chocolate. It’s currently classified as a “dessert topping,” but its makers want it to be classified as “jam” instead. The main difference is that the serving size on the food label for jam is one tablespoon, while the serving size for dessert topping is two tablespoons. Hence, the FDA wants to figure out which serving size more accurately reflects how much Nutella people really eat.
The right answer, for anyone who’s ever eaten Nutella, is “the larger serving size.” Or, as my colleague Rachel Becker put it: “Does a jar count as a serving size?”
Nutella is clearly a “dessert topping.” It tastes like dessert and it packs a caloric punch like dessert: two tablespoons of Nutella count for 200 calories and 21 grams of sugar. Yes, that’s almost as many calories as a six-inch Subway “veggie delite” sandwich.
Other dessert toppings are marshmallow cream, chocolate syrup, frosting, and various spreads. These are rich, creamy, dense, and not especially healthy. A quick glance shows that chocolate syrup and marshmallow cream have about 150 calories per two-tablespoon serving. This is in the same general range as Nutella.
Now, let us consider “jams.” These include fruit chutney and fruit paste. Most jams have about 50 calories per tablespoon. Nutella has no fruit and far more calories. Yes, people spread Nutella on toast like they would with jam, but you could also melt Hershey’s and spread it on your toast; that doesn’t make melted milk chocolate a “jam.”
There are obviously some health concerns, too. If Nutella were reclassified as a “jam,” its food label would say that it has 100 calories per tablespoon, and that could make people think it’s healthier than it is. People are already bad at reading food labels (in fact, the FDA want to redesign them). We often don’t keep track of how much we eat and are easily tricked by a small number next to the “calorie” box — which is exactly what would happen in this case.
Most of us already eat too much Nutella, and we know it. Don’t let the makers of Nutella trick us into eating more. The FDA is accepting public comment for 60 days. That means you have 60 days to speak your truth about Nutella. Be honest, for the good of us all.