Nutella, the popular hazelnut spread, is being removed from supermarket shelves around the world as a result of a report that suggested one of its ingredients, palm oil, is linked with cancer.
Already, one of Italy’s larger grocery chain, Coop, has stopped selling the spread, according to the BBC. The European Food Safety Authority report, released in May 2016, said the palm oil in spreads such as Nutella was more likely to have carcinogenic components—including Glycidyl fatty acid esters— than other vegetable oils. It’s unclear why the eight-month-old report is only now causing panic.
The report found that palm oil becomes more carcinogenic when heated above 200°C (392°F). While no consumers typically eat the spread heated at that temperature, some companies do cook palm oil at high temperatures to burn off its natural red coloring and to neutralize its odor. Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, told Reuters its industrial processes do not reach that high temperature.
The report stopped short of saying people should stop consuming palm oil altogether—more research is needed before that conclusion can be drawn. Still, it hasn’t stopped some supermarket chains from taking action. So far there are no reports of the spread being pulled from stores in the US. (Huffington Post)
Concerns have been raised a while now about palm oil and its safety when used in food consumption, with the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) releasing a report in May last year declaring it to be more carcinogenic than any other oil, followed by similar claims by the WHO.
It is a well-known fact that many processed foods contain palm oil – ice cream, cake mixes, margarine, and packaged bread. Mainly, of course, because it is the cheapest oil around and it greatly extends the shelf-life of a product. Nutella relies on palm oil for both shelf life and its smooth and spreadable texture.
Palm oil is found in hundreds of household name food brands including Cadbury’s chocolate, Clover and even Ben & Jerry’s, but Nutella has so far faced the brunt of a consumer backlash.