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Nutella’s producer fights back against accusations over cancer-causing palm oil

Ferrero, the producer of Nutella, is fighting back at claims that palm oil used in their hazelnut and chocolate spreads could cause cancer, claims that led to a sales decline of three per cent in the year to August 2016, as consumers gave up the product for palm-oil free alternatives.

So Ferrero has launched an advertising campaign, trying to reassure its customers that Nutella is totally safe, Independent reports.

In May, the European Food Standards Authority said that the contaminants found in palm oil are carcinogenic, warning that even moderate consumption of the substances represented a risk to children.

The most scary affirmation of the authority was that no level of palm oil could be considered safe.

The cancer fears centre on a compounds known as glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), produced in palm oil when it is heated above 200 degrees celsius.

Coop, Italy’s biggest supermarket chain, removed 200 products containing palm oil, though not Nutella, from its shelves in May as a safety measure.

Ferrero now insists that the decision to keep palm oil in Nutella, despite safety fears, is about its texture, not the cost.

“Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward,” Ferrero’s purchasing manager Vincenzo Tapella told Reuters.

Palm oil is found in hundreds of household name food brands including Cadbury’s chocolate, Clover and even Ben & Jerry’s, but Nutella has so far faced the brunt of a consumer backlash.

Substitute oils, derived for example from sunflowers or rapeseed, would increase the cost of making the product by as much as $22m (£18m), a calculation by Reuters found.

Claire Reynolds