France’s ecology minister, Ségolène Royal, has urged the public to stop eating Nutella, saying it contributes to deforestation. Royal essentially says Nutella, which relies on oil palms, has created an environmental imbalance.
“We have to replant a lot of trees because there is massive deforestation that also leads to global warming. We should stop eating Nutella, for example, because it’s made with palm oil,” Royal said in an interview late Monday on the French television network Canal+.
“Oil palms have replaced trees, and therefore caused considerable damage to the environment,” she explained.
Nutella, she said, should be made from “other ingredients”.
The comments angered Ferrero, the giant Italian chocolate group that makes Nutella.
Luca Galletti, the Italian environment minister, rushed to Nutella’s defense. Galletti retorted: “Ségolène Royal is worrying. Leave Italian products alone. For dinner tonight … it’s bread with Nutella.”
Another senior Italian politician, Michele Anzaldi, demanded an apology from Royal, saying on Twitter that France had committed a “serious and ugly” slight against “Italian excellence”.
Without referring to Royal directly, the company issued a statement Tuesday saying it was aware of the environmental stakes and had made commitments to source palm oil in a responsible manner.
Ferrero gets nearly 80% of its palm oil from Malaysia. The rest of its supply comes from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Brazil.
Two-and-a-half years ago, French senators tried to impose a 300% tax on palm oil, saying it was dangerously fattening and its cultivation was bad for the environment. The measure was defeated.