“Did you hear that such-and-such causes cancer?” Every time you turn around, there is a new report about a study supposedly linking a food or ingredient to some form of cancer. Your Facebook news feed is probably littered with posts about such studies. Or maybe your family and friends talk about it. It seems like there’s always something to be afraid of. The newest scare? The beloved and ever-so-delicious spread, Nutella.

Claims linking the famous chocolate-hazelnut spread to cancer should be taken with a grain of salt.
Claims linking the famous chocolate-hazelnut spread to cancer should be taken with a grain of salt.

Recently, a study from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) determined a chemical by-product produced in refined oil to be potentially cancer-causing. In the study, rodents exposed to it eventually developed tumors. The by-product is produced most highly in palm oil when it is cooked. Palm oil is a key ingredient in Nutella. Eventually, headlines claiming that Nutella causes cancer spread throughout the internet, causing sales to drop and leaving many to wonder whether they should adopt a Nutella-free lifestyle.

However, the claim that Nutella causes cancer is not really accurate. In truth, the EFSA study did not specifically look the effect of Nutella and it is not clear how much of the worrisome chemical is actually produced during the making of Nutella. The study did raise concerns about the safety of palm oil, but palm oil is found in many processed foods so there’s no real reason to specifically single out Nutella. Moreover, the study only looked at exposure and tumors in rats.  Although animals experiments are useful, more studies need to be done to determine the effect on actual humans.

So does Nutella cause cancer? The study cannot accurately claim that it does. While the headlines linking Nutella to cancer might be eye-catching, they are probably doing more to incite fear than convey any real information. If you’re deciding on the risks of eating Nutella, understand that a real link between Nutella and cancer has not been made. People should be aware of this flawed claim and keep an open eye and open mind…and maybe continue to have the joy of Nutella in your life. For many of us, that’s a risk worth taking.

Peer edited by Michelle Engle.

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