Almost everyone is familiar with Nutella, the jars of gooey hazelnut spread. It's chocolatey-goodness is a staple on breakfast toast in thousands of kitchens. Concerns about one of the ingredients, palm oil, have raised questions however. First it was deforestation. The spread contains 20% palm oil which the manufacturer, Ferrero, gets mostly from forests in Malaysia. Because it's profitable, farmers there are cutting down other trees and plants and this is affecting animal habitats and some say is impacting climate change.
As if that were not enough, the European Food Safety Agency says that palm oil contains high levels of glycidyl fatty acide esters, or GE and this contaminant is carcinogenic. GE is formed when palm oil is heated to temperatures above 200 degrees Celcius. The maker of the spread has taken out ads and issued press releases in an effort to reassure customers that they process the palm oil in Nutella in a safe manner. They also assert that if they were to use a different ingredient, like sunflower oil, the product would not be as good, would have a shorter shelf life and cost more. They also point out that their spread is not the only food to contain palm oil. Some stores in Italy have refused to carry the product, but Ferrero continues to assert the safety of their product.