- environment - food and beverage industry - France - health - taxes
French lawmakers debate ‘Nutella tax’
It looks as though the popular chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella may be under threat, as French lawmakers debate a bill this week hiking a tax on palm oil – one of the product’s main ingredients – by a hefty 300 percent.
If there is one foreign food that the French cherish as much as their own, it’s Nutella. The chocolatey hazelnut spread is slathered on everything from toast to crêpes to bananas. It looks, however, like the beloved foodstuff may be under threat as French lawmakers seek to raise a tax on palm oil – one of Nutella’s main ingredients – by 300 percent.
The bill, which was adopted by a Senate commission and heads to the National Assembly this week for review, has been dubbed by French media as the “Nutella tax”. Upon careful inspection of the spread’s ingredients, it turns out that roughly 20 percent of the product is made of palm oil, which is known to be high in saturated fats and can potentially cause heart disease.
The widespread use of palm oil has also been criticised for leading to deforestation in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.
Frédéric Thil, who heads the French division of Ferrero, the Italian group that owns Nutella, acknowledged health and environmental concerns linked to the industrial use of palm oil, but vowed that the proposed tax would not affect the spread’s recipe.
“Palm oil, like butter and cheese, contains saturated fat. It shouldn’t be abused,” Thil said. “Even if the tax is voted, we will not change our recipe. We’re going to explain the situation to our customers. Since 2005, we have worked on becoming labeled by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Our goal is for production to be 100 percent sustainable by 2015 in an effort to avoid the problems of deforestation.”
Yet the “Nutella tax” could potentially have far-reaching consequences on the fate of French pastries and other processed foods, which are in part so delicious because they are filled with saturated fats such as… palm oil. If the bill is adopted, not only will the price of Nutella go up by an estimated 0.06 euros per kilo, but the cost of all sorts of snack foods like crisps and cookies will also soar.
France reportedly consumes around 130,000 tonnes of palm oil per year, or the equivalent of two kilos per inhabitant.