Main Nutella ingredient a cancer risk, says EFSA

  • 15/01/2017
nutella jars on supermarket shelf getty
Nutella makers have gone on the defensive about the risks of palm oil (Getty)

The makers of Nutella have hit back at a report which states the major ingredient in the popular spread is a cancer risk. 

Nutella relies on palm oil to give it its smooth, spreadable consistency and its long shelf life. 

But a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in May that palm oil generated more of a potentially carcinogenic contaminant than other vegetable oils when refined at temperatures above 200degC.

Ferrero, the Italian confectionary firm which produces Nutella, has gone on the defensive by launching an advertising campaign to assure the public its flagship product is safe.

In an online campaign, the Nutella website lists palm oil as natural fruit oil used in cooking for hundreds of centuries.

"The use of palm oil in human nutrition dates back to over 10,000 years. In Southeast Asia, Africa and parts of Brazil, palm oil is widely used for domestic cooking," the website reads. 

Ferrero's purchasing manager Vincenzo Tapella told Reuters producing Nutella without palm oil would be a "step backward".

"Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product," he said. 

Ferrero has insisted the consistency and flavour of the spread would be significantly different without palm oil.

EFSA does not have the power to make regulations, though the product is under review by the European Commission. 

The spokesman for Health and Food Safety, Enrico Brivio, told Reuters guidance would be issued by the end of this year. 

Measures could include regulations to limit the level of GE in food products, but there will not be a ban on the use of palm oil, he said.