And we thought 2016 was bad…
The heavenly condiment/food group that is Nutella has been banned in some Italian retailers as a precaution to a study that found a key ingredient could pose a cancer risk.
The study, commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in May last year, found that palm oil – the component that gives Nutella its smooth and spreadable texture and long shelf life – is potentially carcinogenic when refined at temperatures above 200 degrees celsius.
The oil, which is said to be the cheapest on the market, is heated at high temperatures to remove its red colouring and neutralise smell.
This, however, causes contaminants called glycidyl fatty acid esters or GE to form, which when digested can release glycidol.
Dr Helle Knutsen, chair of Contam, the EFSA panel that investigated the oil’s risk back in May said: “There is sufficient evidence that glycidol is genotoxic and carcinogenic, therefore the Contam panel did not set a safe level for GE.”
While the perhaps simple answer may be to swap the oil for an alternative, Nutella maker Ferrero is standing by its popular formula, claiming that any other would result in an “inferior” product.
"Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward," purchasing manager Vincenzo Tapella told Reuters.
According to the publication’s estimates, Ferrero uses approximately 185,000 tonnes of palm oil per year, meaning that a replacement could also cost the manufacturer an additional $10-29 million annually.
Ferrero declined to respond to these hypothesised figures.
Instead, Ferrero has launched an advertising campaign in a bid to reassure its many customers that products are indeed safe for consumption.
“The palm oil used by Ferrero is safe because it comes from freshly squeezed fruits and is processed at controlled temperatures,” said Tapella in a television commercial.
While this news will no doubt shock many, global sales of Nutella appear unaffected, and actually continue to increase by 5-6 per cent each year.
But, what about you? Will you cease the spread of Nutella on your morning toast?
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