The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA has revealed a study which shows that palm oil contain the highest level carcinogenic contaminants usually found in most vegetable oils.
According to the group, carcinogens (cancerous substance) are not found in the raw oils but are produced when oils are refined at high temperatures of around 200°C (or 400°F), which is a routine part of the process when making processed foods. Also, palm oil is heated to remove its characteristic smell and deep orange colour.
It was reported that supermarkets abroad have began to remove some products from shelves that contain the offending ingredient – processed palm oil, as a precautionary measures until further research proves otherwise. The development affected popular Nutella chocolate bread spread – a product rumoured to potentially cause cancer.
However, there are still speculations on the chocolate spread as the parent company has debunked the claim. News making the rounds on Wednesday said that an ingredient in Nutella could potentially cause cancer. The company have launched a defense and reassure customers that their product is still safe.
The company wrote:
“Palm oil is used in Nutella to give the product its creamy texture, as well as to heighten the flavor of its ingredients, thanks to its properties that enable it to have a neutral odor and taste after the refining process.
“Furthermore, it is the best ingredient for giving Nutella the right smoothness, guaranteeing its special spreadability.
Above all, avoiding the hydrogenation process that would produce otherwise unhealthy trans fats.”
What exactly is the substance in Palm Oil that could increase the risk of cancer
According to the Independent UK, EFSA looked at three substances derived from glycodil, which is found in vegetable oils. They are glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE), 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD), and 2-monochloropropanediol (2-MCPD).
Preview of scientific studies by the group explained that repeated exposure to GE increases the incidence of tumours in rats and mice, probably by damaging the genetic information in their cells. The agency said exposure was particularly harmful to children.
As much as the EFSA does not have the authority to pull palm oil, margarine or other items from the shelf of supermarkets for being deemed unsafe, people are advice to reduce consumption of products containing processed palm oil (pastries, cakes and margarines, many brands of chocolate) and the Rainforest Foundation UK provided a guide to palm oil free product.