Nutella Is Not Broccoli: Today in Food Finance

Have you bought a jar of Nutella in the past four years? Were you under the impression, as you slathered the creamy hazlenut spread onto your crackers or scooped large spoonfuls of it from the jar directly into your mouth, that you were indulging a health food craving? Well, you could soon find yourself at least $4 wealthier.

Yes, that's right. Ferrero, the company that manufactures the highly addictive yet apparently not terribly healthy spread, has settled a $3 million lawsuit filed in February 2011 by San Diego mom Athena Hohenberg. Hohenberg, it seems, believed that Nutella was a great dietary choice for her four-year-old daughter. She claimed the company's advertising -- particularly giving TV-ad viewers the idea that Nutella was part of a nutritious breakfast (see ad below) -- led to her erroneous perception.

But when she realized the spread is about as healthy as your average Snickers bar, she decided it was time to get even -- and get cash.

While the total award sum is a not-too-shabby $3.5 million, $2.5 million of that (for the nationwide class action suit) will be spread out among claimants that could include you. If you want in on this money train, go here to fill out your claim. It seems that you don't even have to have a receipt, and for now you can get reimbursed for up to five jars if you bought them between Jan 1, 2008, and Feb 3, 2012 (or Aug. 1, 2009, and Jan. 23, 2012 in Hohenberg's home state).

Along with now being $3 million poorer, Ferrero will have to change its marketing and labeling to clear up any possible misconceptions about the health benefits of its product.

All of this brings to mind the obesity lawsuits lodged against McDonald's (MCD), in which the filers claimed to be utterly stunned that chicken McNuggets and frosty shakes could expand their waistlines. While a major obesity suit against the company was thrown out back in 2003, a man in Brazil -- a McDonald's franchise manager, no less -- actually managed to win $17,500 after he packed on 65 Big Mac pounds over 12 years.

What do you think? Was the Nutella lawsuit ridiculous? Or did it have merit?