Nutella’s use of palm oil has been deemed as a potential threat to the consumers’ safety. When processed at high temperatures, the ingredient gives out genotoxic contaminants that directly damage the DNA, and carcinogens that drastically increases one’s chance to develop various forms of the fatal disease.
However, the manufacturer claims palm oil is refined at the lowest temperatures possible, in order to keep the harmful compounds in check. As of now, Nutella makes up for a third of Ferrero’s annual revenue. Analysts say that if the formula would change, the company could face losses of millions of dollars with each year that passes.
Nutella, however, is not the only product that receives bad publicity. Nevertheless, palm oil used in the tasty spread’s composition is exactly what gives Nutella its world-renowned creamy texture. Also, the ingredient increases the product’s shelf life.
Palm oil is extracted from fruits and kernels of palm plants and is widely consumed in baked goods, frozen foods, chips, and candy. According to the European Safety Authority, of all vegetable oils used in the food industry globally, palm oil has the most harmful effects on the human body when improperly processed. Health officials warn that children, especially under the age of 10, are most susceptible to the negative effects of the ingredient.
According to health experts, palm oil in itself is not harmful to humans and is generally accepted as safe.
“There is no US ban in place regarding the use of palm oil in foods”, says a Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman, Megan McSeveney.
Furthermore, the ingredient is FDA-approved as a cocoa butter substitute, but only when processed under specific heating guidelines and production.
In order to defend its use of the ingredient, Ferrero says its palm oil is processed at the lowest temperatures possible, harvested and subsequently extracted from the kernels and palm plants in the quickest possible times.
Another popular product that received bad publicity over the use of the ingredient were also the Girl Scout cookies. Rather than looking for carcinogens and genotoxins, however, the girl scouts who raised awareness on the product were concerned about the habitats of orangutans which were gradually destroyed by palm oil plantations. Even though the ingredient can still be found in the Girl Scout cookies, the levels are significantly lower. Ultimately, licensed bakers all across the U.S. are continuously looking for viable alternatives to the ingredient.
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