Palm oil, the Nutella crisis

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Rumor has it that Nutella sales in Italy, as in France and a couple of other European countries, are declining. This would explain the massive period investments in television advertising during peak hours, and the free gift of a lamp to those who buy a large can of product.

Beyond the numbers, it is interesting to note how Italian consumers have been directing their choices toward palm fat-free foods as soon as they have been able to identify the nature of the vegetable oils used on the label (i.e., since the entry into force of EU Reg. 1169/11 on Dec. 13, 2014). Italy’s large retailers-beginning with Coop Italia, the market leader-have been able to meet people’s sensitivities, to the point of quickly changing the recipes of branded products. And so the sector industries, after a vain initial attempt at an unlikely defense of tropical fat.

Ferrero, however, insists and tries to impose that ‘Master’s Voice’ of ancient memory, dating back to 78 rpm vinyls. He organized a momentous meeting the other day in Milan, where the solons of science and information took to the field. Even a deputy minister for agriculture, Andrea Olivero, who seemed to have landed from Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta, for his impassioned defense of a raw material of distant and controversial origin because of ‘land grabbing’ and deforestation primarily attributed to it.


Great Italian Food Trade



and il Fatto Alimentare have campaigned over the years to inform and denounce, against palm, highlighting its socio-environmental dangers on a global scale, as well as the risks associated with an excessive intake of saturated fats and palmitic acid. To which were recently added Efsa’s scientific assessments of the hazardousness of some process contaminants in refined palm.

No one intended to denounce the unhealthiness or unsustainability of Nutella. Indeed, we would have been ready to celebrate with glee the virtuous innovation in the most iconic of spreads, which from Italy has made history across the planet.

This was unfortunately not the case, not yet at least. We therefore persist in disagreeing with the ‘Voice of the Master,’ noting how similar products are now available on the market that-thanks to the elimination of palm hate-have more adequate nutritional profiles than the current needs of populations. In the face of a global health emergency that expresses itself in obesity, overweight and related diseases (type 2 diabetes first and foremost), the cause of which lies in dietary imbalance and excessive intakes of saturated fat, sugar and salt.

Never losing hope for a better future, for Italian consumers but also for peoples evicted from their lands in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Africa. Endangered animal species and biodiversity, all of which are threatened by the steady march of new oil palm plantations, with or without stamps or certifications from variously interested parties (such as RSPO, whose founders include those responsible for so many and too many irresponsible operations).

Dario Dongo