The Ferrero food maker, responsible for Nutella worldwide, is fighting back against allegations concerning the danger that represents one of the ingredients used in their famous hazelnut and cocoa spread.
The Italian manufacturer company, valued in $44 billion, has started a campaign against a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This advertising mechanism is oriented to explaining the consumers that Nutella is a 100 percent safe to eat product despite what several food companies from Italy say while trying to boycott the ingredient.
Ferrero relies on the use of palm oil for the Nutella to be a long lasting product as well as for getting a smoother texture. According to Ferrero’s officials, the change of the palm oil with other substitutes like sunflower oil would translate into the loss of quality.
“Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward,” the Ferrero’s purchasing manager Vincenza Tapella said in an interview with Reuters last Tuesday.
Not only Nutella would not taste the same if the palm oil ingredient is changed, according to Ferrero, but it would represent a financial cost to the company. The palm oil has a price of $800 per ton, making it the cheapest vegetable oil available in the market.
Other possible options cost more, like sunflower oil that has a price of $845 per ton and the rapeseed oil that costs about $920 per ton. In that scenario, Ferrero would have to invest between $10 to $20 million per year to keep operating in the same way. The manufacturer currently uses almost 190,000 tons of palm oil a year.
Palm oil could be cancerous
According to an EFSA report issued on May last year, the palm oil ingredient produces more of a potentially cardiogenic element when comparing to other components of the same type. This element is generated when the oil is put under enormous temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius, the heat necessary to make certain edible products.
However, after this report was published in 2016, EFSA did not recommend to the public to stop consuming any edible that had this particular ingredient as explained that the agency must conduct a series of exhaustive studies to determine if the palm oil is, in fact, harmful to human health.
This EFSA report was backed by a European Commission investigation when saying that the GE (the element produced when heating the palm oil) is potentially harmful. Also, the United Nations and the World Health Organization both declared that the GE had a health risk but failed to recommend consumers to stop eating products that have palm oil in it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is another important agency that has not banned the palm oil use in edible products.
EFSA does not have the jurisdiction when it comes to law regulations in the continent. In this matter, the spokesman for Health and Food Safety, Enrico Brivio, stated that recommendations regarding this problem would be issued soon, as clarified that the palm oil will not be ban from companies to use it in their products.
Local reaction to the palm oil risk
One of Italy’s most famous supermarket franchises, “Coop,” stopped using the palm oil ingredient in their own brand products as the company is now boycotting it after the EFSA released the report. “Coop” explained that this decision was only a precaution method.
Another important Italian manufacturer, Barilla, deleted the usage of palm oil and started marking their products with “palm oil-free” labels. Both Il Fatto Alimentare, major cuisine magazine, and Coldiretti, Italian largest farming association, asked for companies to stop using the ingredient in their products as soon as possible.
The Ferrero company has started a campaign that features its officials telling the public that there is no danger of consuming Ferrero’s products, including Nutella. The argument that the company has used bases on the fact that they do not use the same method as other businesses when processing the palm oil before adding it to their edibles.
The report from the EFSA showed that when the vegetable oil was heated to temperatures of over 200 Celsius, there were great amounts of the GE element released. However, Ferrero has stated that they heat the oil in temperatures just below 200 Celsius and apply very little pressure to avoid the contaminant generation.
The company reported that this particular process cost 20 percent more and takes more time to do it, but despite that, they do it for consumers to be safe regarding the GE levels present in the manufacturing process.
“The palm oil used by Ferrero is safe because it comes from freshly squeezed fruits and is processed at controlled temperatures,” Tapella said in the TV ad that has been circulating through Italy over the past three months.
Other international companies, like Unilever and Nestle, use the palm oil ingredients on their products. These companies have stated that they are conducting investigations that assure the consumer’s health in any situation.