Palm oil products are being pulled from some stores in Italy after a report linking it to cancer

Palm oil woes.
Palm oil woes.
Image: Reuters/Samsul Said
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Some palm oil products being removed from supermarket shelves around the world as a result of a report that suggested the oil is linked with cancer.

Already, one of Italy’s larger grocery chain, Coop, has stopped selling some of its store brand products containing the oil. The European Food Safety Authority report, released in May 2016, said the palm oil in food products 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.

“We used the precautionary principle in regard to our [palm oil] products only,” Coop said via Twitter.

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. Initially, the BBC and other outlets reported the popular hazelnut spread, Nutella, was being pulled from some store shelves. The company told Reuters its industrial processes do not reach that high temperature and it was not being pulled.

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 products being pulled from stores in the US.

CORRECTION: This report has been changed to reflect that Nutella was not removed from store shelves as a result of the European Food Safety Authority report.