France's 'Nutella amendment' causes big fat international row
Threat to quadruple taxes on products containing palm oil, one of Nutella's key ingredients, angers producers in Malaysia
Kim Willsher in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Monday 12 November 2012 10.55 EST
It is the sweet and sickly staple of many a French schoolchild's breakfast: la tartine de Nutella, a dollop of chocolate and hazelnut spread on a slice of baguette.
An estimated 235,000 tonnes of the paste – reportedly invented in the back room of an Italian pastry shop in 1944 – are consumed every year, around 100m pots in France alone.
Little wonder, then, that health warnings and government threats to impose a fat tax, known as the "Nutella amendment", have caused a mini revolution among Gallic consumers and sparked an international row.
On Monday, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council hit back at French claims that palm oil, a key ingredient in Nutella and widely used in margarine, biscuits and crisps, was detrimental to the environment and fuelling obesity. "Malaysia is deeply concerned with French Senator Yves Daudigny's proposed 300% tax increase on palm oil … Palm oil is a healthy, natural and important product, which 240,000 small farmers in Malaysia are proud to produce.
"Contrary to Senator Daudigny's comments, every nutritional and food expert concludes that palm oil is in fact free of dangerous trans fats, free of GMOs and contains valuable vitamins," the council's chief executive said in a statement.
Nutella's maker, Ferrero (of Ferrero Rocher chocolates fame), has also moved to reassure its customers in France, insisting that there will be no change in the recipe.