Ferrero is the first major European food company to defend the palm oil industry following reports that refined palm oil in foods may cause cancer. The Italian company ran television commercials and took out full-page newspaper advertisements to reassure consumers that it is safe to eat Nutella, which contains palm oil. Other Italian food companies have removed palm oil from their products.
Palm oil has been flagged by several European authorities as a potential cancer risk. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that palm oil generates more of a potentially carcinogenic contaminant than any other vegetable oil when refined at temperatures of 200°C (392°F). The World Health Organisation (WHO) also flagged the risk. Neither organization has advised people to stop eating palm oil. The EFSA said further research is needed to assess the risk.
"Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product; it would be a step backward," Vincenzo Tapella, Ferrero's purchasing manager told Reuters. In the pro-palm oil television commercial filmed at Ferrero's Alba factory, Tapella claims, "The palm oil used by Ferrero is safe because it comes from freshly squeezed fruits and is processed at controlled temperatures." Palm oil is the ingredient that gives Nutella its smooth texture and extends its shelf life.