Study Suggests Ingredient in Nutella Could Cause Cancer: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Jars of Nutella are displayed on a shelf at a market on August 18, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Getty)

A European report is claiming that refined palm oil, a key ingredient in Nutella, could be a possible carcinogen. In response to the news, some retailers have boycotted the item, pulling it from grocery store shelves across Europe.

Although initial concerns about palm oil were announced by the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) in May, the news is only just reaching the US, where there are currently no FDA restrictions against its use.

Many processed foods use palm oil, including ice cream, pastries, cake mixes, margarine, and packaged bread. The oil can also be found in some non-edible items.

1. The EFSA Claims That Palm Oil Can Pose a Cancer Risk

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Jars of Nutella are displayed on a shelf at a market on August 18, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The threat of a Nutella shortage is looming after a March frost in Turkey destroyed nearly 70 percent of the hazelnut crops, the main ingredient in the popular chocolate spread. Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts in the world. (Getty)

In May, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed that palm oil is potentially carcinogenic when processed at high temperatures, and “generated more of a potentially carcinogenic contaminant than other vegetable oils when refined at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius.” Glycidyl fatty acid ester (GE) is at the center of the cancer concerns, and GE is only produced when palm oil is heated above 200°C.

In May, the chair of the ESFA panel that investigated palm oil, said: “There is sufficient evidence that glycidol is genotoxic and carcinogenic, therefore the Contam panel did not set a safe level for GE.” The ESFA has not yet recommended stopping the use of palm oil.

On December 7, an academic study funded partially by UK charity Worldwide Cancer Research claimed a link between palm oil and the rapid spread of cancer in mice. Mice who were fed a high fat diet and large amounts of palmitic acid (a large component of palm oil) developed the most aggressive cancer spread, according to the study.

2. Ferrero Is Defending the Use of Palm Oil

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Chef Dominique Ansel poses with his latest creation, Nutella Pancake Cone, made especially for Nutells?s International Pancake Tuesday event on February 17, 2015 in New York City. (Getty)

Ferrero, an Italian corporation, has launched an advertising campaign to assure the public of Nutella’s safety.

In their commercial campaign, Ferrero says that Nutella would not be the same without palm oil and that they “use it in a way that isn’t dangerous.” In the add, Ferrero’s purchasing manager, Vincenzo Tapella, explains that the palm oil used by Ferrero is not only processed at a controlled temperature, but it comes from freshly squeezed fruits, making it safe.

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3. Nutella Was Trending on Twitter Wednesday Night

As of Wednesday evening, Nutella was trending on Twitter, and people across the globe were voicing their opinions on the news. Many have commented that despite cancer claims, eating Nutella is still worth it.

4. Palm Oil Is the Cheapest Vegetable Oil

Palm oil is the cheapest oil in the market, and Ferrero uses about 185,000 tons of the ingredient each year, according to the SF Gate. A switch away from palm oil could cost anywhere from $8 to $22 million more each year.

Tapella has also said using another oil in place of palm oil would change the character of Nutella. Tapella told Reuters, “Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward.”

5. Nutella Profits Have Gone Down 3%

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According to the Daily Mail, Nutella’s profits have taken a 3% hit since the EFSA claimed palm oil is more carcinogenic than any other oil.

Nutella makes up about a fifth of Ferrero’s sales, according to Channel NewsAsia, and the palm oil industry is currently valued at $44 billion.

As of January 11, the US Food and Drug Administration had not banned using palm oil in food.

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  1. Heavy should be sued! The study did not claim that Nutella may cause cancer. The study claimed that palm oil may cause cancer and that study was conducted on mice and rats. Additionally palm oil is used in just about any product immaginable such as cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos. It’s in your biodiesel, It’s in frozen pizza dough (including the garbage from your favorite fast food restaurant. That crap, that you most likely eat, called Rammen noodles is up of 20% palm oil. Trying to keep your heart healthy wish “food porn” like margarine and other butter substitutes (which flies don’t even eat because it’s so artificial) is mostly palm oil. Oh and god-forbid, your favorite over-priced chocolate is made with palm oil. The crap processed ice cream on the market shelves is made with palm oil. Your processed, store bought cookies, including the diabetes causing Oreo’s with all the sugar in it, is made with palm oil. Like your nutritionally devoid store bought bread, great because that has palm oil as well. And because most people are to lazy to do any research on their own, here’s just few other names that palm oil .goes by: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Glyceryl and so on and so forth…. Bon apetite!!!

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