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How do you eat Nutella? The FDA wants to know

The maker of the popular chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella, loved by children and adults worldwide, wants a smaller serving size on its US jars to reflect how it says people use the product nowadays.

nutellaThe current serving size is two tablespoons, or 37 grams, equaling 200 calories. Nutella maker Ferrero thinks a smaller serving size — with fewer calories — might make people more likely to grab a jar from supermarket shelves.

Ferrero has been petitioning the US Food and Drug Administration for the past couple of years to change the serving size on the labels.

“Ferrero’s most recent advertising and promotion has advocated the consumption of a balanced breakfast with the inclusion of Nutella as a tasty, complementary spread to add on to nutrient-rich whole grain breads, fruits, and dairy products,” the latest petition says.

It includes a consumer survey of 722 women (PDF) with children between the ages of 3 and 12 to back its claims that people no longer use the spread to make ice cream or to fill cupcakes and other desserts.

The company says that in 1991, only 8% of people considered slathering chocolate on bread, but nowadays, 60% of people enjoy Nutella on toast, 14% report using it as a sandwich filling, and 13% eat it with crackers or fruit.

However, thousands of images are shared with the hashtag #nutellacupcake on social media. There are over 8,000 posts on Instagram alone.

The FDA may finally consider Nutella’s claims, but only if the American people agree.

Customers are being asked to send comments on their consumption of Nutella and other flavored nut butter spreads, such as those mixing nuts with cocoa, cookies, vanilla or coffee.

The FDA says it is updating its serving sizes and wants to consider the requests received throughout the years.

The agency has been asked “that we either issue a guidance recognizing that ‘nut cocoa-based spreads’ fall within the ‘Honey, jams, jellies, fruit butter, molasses’ category” for the purposes of a determination called “reference amount customarily consumed” or create a category for nut cocoa-based spreads with a reference amount of 1 tablespoon, the FDA explained in a statement.

Ferrero says that changing the guidelines will help people make conscious decisions based on how much Nutella they actually eat.

“Responsible commercial communications can assist consumers in making appropriate choices about food and beverage products, as well as in understanding the role of nutrition, diet and physical activity in order to achieve a globally healthy and active lifestyle,” the company’s website says.

But one might question the company’s FDA request. In 2012, Ferrero settled a class-action lawsuit for $3 million after a 4-year-old’s mother claimed she was shocked to discover that the hazelnut-chocolate spread — whose first two ingredients are sugar and palm oil — was nutritionally similar to a candy bar despite being advertised as a healthy breakfast option.

The US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warned that consumers must reflect on how much of a product they are actually using, regardless of the amount the product’s owners determines as normal.

“Moms will continue to be creative with how they use nut spreads, so consumers need to remember to look at the serving size and determine how much of a particular food meets their nutritional needs and those of their families,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Caroline Passerrello of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Some consumers may think they ‘should’ eat less if the serving size is reduced, but it takes more than one serving, one food or one day to impact chronic disease risk.”