Nutella, the popular hazelnut spread, is being removed from supermarket shelves around the world as a result of a report that suggested one of its ingredients, palm oil, is linked with cancer.
Already, one of Italy’s larger grocery chain, Coop, has stopped selling the spread, according to the BBC. The European Food Safety Authority report, released in May 2016, said the palm oil in spreads such as Nutella was more likely to have carcinogenic components—including Glycidyl fatty acid esters— than other vegetable oils. It’s unclear why the eight-month-old report is only now causing panic.
The report found that palm oil becomes more carcinogenic when heated above 200°C (392°F). While no consumers typically eat the spread heated at that temperature, some companies do cook palm oil at high temperatures to burn off its natural red coloring and to neutralize its odor. Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, told Reuters its industrial processes do not reach that high temperature.
Safety is our top priority. We carefully select raw materials & use production processes w/ strict quality criteria to ensure safe products.
— Nutella (@NutellaUSA) January 13, 2017
The report stopped short of saying people should stop consuming palm oil altogether—more research is needed before that conclusion can be drawn. Still, it hasn’t stopped some supermarket chains from taking action. So far there are no reports of the spread being pulled from stores in the US.
The chocolatey spread can be traced back to the food rationing days in Europe following World War II. Back then, it was mostly marketed as an affordable, nutritious spread for toast. The product hit the US in the 1980s, and quickly gained a loyal following. Initially, US consumers used the spread more as a dessert topping, but data show those habits have changed through the years to reflect more European habits.