Nutella maker fights back on study saying key ingredient might cause cancer

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ROME — The maker of Nutella is fighting back in defense of palm oil after a U.K. study said the ingredient might cause cancer.

The European Food Safety Authority said in May that palm oil produces a higher potential carcinogenic contaminant when refined at temperatures higher than 390 degrees.

Food giant Ferrero, the maker of the popular chocolate and hazelnut spread, has started an advertising campaign in Italy to assure consumers that palm oil is safe to eat, Reuters reported.

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

Palm oil helps stabilize the spread, keeps it creamy and enhances its shelf life, Tapella said.

Palm oil is also cheaper than other vegetable oils, including sunflower oil and rapeseed oil that have been used as substitutes. Using replacement vegetable oil could cost Ferrero $8 million to $22 million a year, according to Reuters.