Politics & Government

Trump’s full plate as president will include an FDA decision about Nutella

Nutella.
Nutella. TPN/Los Angeles Times

President-elect Donald Trump and his underlings will soon inherit the dilemma of defining Nutella; or, as Florida resident Carol Davis put it, the sweetened hazelnut spread that’s “chocolaty goodness.”

Davis and others like her want the Food and Drug Administration to keep Nutella listed as a dessert. The manufacturer wants it reclassified as something akin to jams or jellies.

While Nutella will probably not be the Trump team’s biggest challenge, it has already drawn some 650 conflicting opinions during a public comment period that ends Jan. 3. It also provides a small taste of the wide-ranging regulatory clout Trump will soon wield.

“The number of final rules published each year is generally in the range of 2,500-4,500,” Congressional Research Service analyst Maeve P. Carey noted in an October report.

Underscoring the executive branch’s regulatory reach, of which Nutella represents a small part, Carey reported that the Federal Register in 2015 had devoted 24,694 pages to final rules, a 20 percent increase from 2001.

I use Nutella the same way I do peanut butter. I take a knife, scoop some out and spread it on toast. I doubt it is a full tablespoon.

California resident Talitha Wegner

Last November, the FDA added the Nutella designation to its regulatory menu. It wasn’t the first time the spread’s characterization had drawn attention. In 2012, Nutella’s manufacturer, Ferrero USA, settled for $3 million a false advertising class-action lawsuit brought by two San Diego-area women. The lawsuit contended the women were “shocked to learn that Nutella was in fact not a ‘healthy’ ‘nutritious’ food, but instead was the next best thing to a candy bar.”

A subsequent Nutella petition to the FDA declared that the product “has become a staple for millions of U.S. families and is used commonly on toast or bread or in sandwiches during meals and snacks.” Reclassifying it would reduce the serving size from two tablespoons to one, thereby reducing the number of calories per official serving.

The public comments so far do not always provide detailed information about the writers, but they do reveal a division of opinion.

“I believe that if Nutella wants to market itself as a spread, it should be able to do so, and adjust the serving size on the label accordingly,” Minnesota resident Joseph Busilla wrote.

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California resident Seda Becer, on the other hand, likened Nutella to a dessert as she was “eating a jar every other day” until she quit.

“I gained about 10 (pounds) because of that,” Becer wrote. “I later lost that extra weight when I stopped eating Nutella.”

The FDA has not specified when it may act, nor has Trump yet identified his choice as FDA commissioner, though news reports have named California-based venture capitalist James O’Neill as a top contender.

Michael Doyle: 202-383-6153, @MichaelDoyle10

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