A major ingredient in Nutella may cause cancer. This new revelation has led to the popular chocolate hazelnut spread to be pulled from grocery store shelves throughout Europe.
In May, the European Standards Agency warned that there could carcinogenic chemicals — Glycidyl fatty acid ester (GE) — in palm oil when heated above 200 degrees Celsius, or almost 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Palm oil is a major ingredient in the spread and gives Nutella its smooth, velvety texture and prolongs shelf life, reports The Sun.
But Ferrero, the maker of the spread, is now fighting back against claims Nutella could cause cancer with a marketing campaign. The Italian corporation reassures its customers of their decision to keep palm oil in the spread, despite fears.
“Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward,” Ferrero’s purchasing manager, Vincenzo Tapella, told Reuters.
However, substituting sunflower or rapeseed oil would actually increase the cost, making the spread cost around $22. The Independent reports Ferrero did not respond to the inquiries about their contradictory claim.
Nutella is a leading product for the company and generates one-fifth of its sales. Ferrero uses about 185,000 tons of palm oil a year.
The EFSA did not completely advise people against consuming it and said more research needed to be done in order to reach a full conclusion. The World Health Organization and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization both warned about the possible risks of palm oil, but stopped short of suggesting people stop consuming it.
High temperatures are used on the oil to remove its natural red color and neutralize the smell. Ferrero insists that they use an industrial process that does not heat the substance above 200 degrees Celsius. “The palm oil used by Ferrero is safe because it comes from freshly squeezed fruits and is processed at controlled temperatures,” said Tapella.
Enrico Brivio, Spokesmen for Health and Food Safety at the European Commission, said guidelines related to palm oil will be delivered by the end of 2017.
Dr. Helle Knutsen, chair of Contam, the EFSA panel that investigated palm oil, stated, “There is sufficient evidence that glycidol is genotoxic and carcinogenic, therefore the Contam panel did not set a safe level for GE.”
Those procedures include rules limiting the amount of the contaminant in food products. Several stores in Italy have already boycotted Nutella as a safeguard.