No one sensible thinks that Nutella should be a key component in any serious diet. There are plenty of delicious tasting, healthy foods out there, but nothing that good can be anything other than terrible for you. This probably explains why most of us are all too happy to turn a blind eye to exactly what is behind the much coveted, secret Nutella recipe. Sadly, the time has come when we can no longer plead innocence.
A now viral infographic, originally created by the Consumer Centre Hamburg and since circulated on social media around the world, shows the contents of a Nutella jar, by revealing a cross section highlighting each individual ingredient. For a fan of the chocolate spread, the display is alarming.
Though the food only contains five different ingredients - a tiny amount when compared to the industry standard - what’s included is hardly a paradigm of good health. The graphic shows that around half the jar is made entirely from sugar, with the rest of the ingredients list made up of hazelnuts, cocoa solids, milk powder and palm oil. When it’s all mixed into a delicious brown goo, it can look deceptively innocent. Shown in these terms, it seems shocking.
As a response to the horrified reactions being posted online, Ferrero issued a statement to defend their product. "One of Ferrero's core nutritional beliefs is that small portion sizes help people to enjoy their favourite foods in moderation,” they said. “The labelling on all our products enables consumers to make informed choices and helps ensure that Nutella can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet." This is the clearest indication that the company have ever given that their food should be enjoyed as a treat rather than an everyday staple.
Despite most of the public reaction revolving around the sugar content, this was not what authors were originally looking to draw people’s attention to. Ironically, the graphic was actually created to raise awareness of the potentially damaging effects of another prominent Nutella ingredient - palm oil.
According to Die Welt, a German newspaper who covered the story when it first broke, it is actually palm oil that is the most dangerous ingredient in the jar. Not only is it disastrous for the environment, but the high temperature at which it is rendered makes it potentially carcinogenic. Though the oil is used throughout the food industry, Ferrero have defended their use more vociferously than almost all of their competitors, which is what prompted Die Welt’s original critique.
Peeling back the curtain that covers many of our favourite foods is not a pleasant experience. It’s often better to bumble along without knowing what it is we’ve been putting into our bodies than it is to face the horrifying truth head on.. Unfortunately, when the cat’s out of the bag, it gets pretty tricky to turn a blind eye. We apologise if we’ve ruined Nutella for everyone. At least it’s still delicious.