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Ferrero defends its use of possible cancer-causing palm oil in Nutella

City A.M. Wednesday, 11 January 2017
Ferrero defends its use of possible cancer-causing palm oil in NutellaNutella maker Ferrero has spoken out in support of the palm oil industry after a European agency said the ingredient poses a cancer risk.

The Italian chocolate makers launched an advertising campaign to defend their use of the oil, which others in Italy are boycotting, Reuters reported.

​Using substitutes like sunflower oil would change the character of the hazelnut and chocolate spread, Ferrero said. Palm oil contributes to Nutella's smooth texture and shelf life.

*Read more*: France moves to slash palm oil "Nutella tax"

"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.

A change to more expensive substitutes would cost Ferrero an extra $8m (£6.6m) to $22m (£18m) annually for the 185,000 tonnes it uses every year.

In May, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said palm oil generated more of a potentially carcinogenic contaminant than other vegetable oils when refined at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius.

The EFSA didn't recommend people stop eating it, however, and said further study was needed.

*Read more*: London-listed New Britain Palm Oil to sell for $1.1bn

The European Commission is now reviewing the matter, and the spokesperson for health and food safety, Enrico Brivio, said regulatory guidance would be issued by the end of this year.

Following pressure from activists, Italy's largest supermarket, Coop, has already started to boycott palm oil as a "precaution" in its own-brand products, and the country's largest baker, Barilla, has also eliminated it.

Ferrero said it uses a safe process of refining the oil at a temperature just below 200 degrees Celsius to minimise contaminants – a process that takes longer and costs 20 per cent more, the company told Reuters.

*Read more*: Palm oil group DekelOil heads for AIM after making key acquisition
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News video: Nutella maker fights back on palm oil

Nutella maker fights back on palm oil 01:15

The $44 billion palm oil industry, under pressure in Europe after authorities listed the edible oil as a cancer risk, has found a vocal ally in the food sector: the maker of Nutella. Julian Satterthwaite reports.

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