A proposed 300% increase on French palm oil imports could lead to increased consumption of harmful trans fats and ignores the primary sources of saturated fat in the French diet, says the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).
Dubbed the ‘Nutella tax’ because of the chocolate-hazelnut spread’s relatively high palm oil content, Senator Yves Daudigny proposed a tax of €300 per tonne of palm oil, on top of an existing €100 levy in the upper house last week. The measure would also need to be adopted by the lower house before becoming law.
Palm oil has come under scrutiny in France and other countries for its high saturated fat content as well as links with deforestation and poor environmental practices on plantations in Southeast Asia.
However, MPOC CEO Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron said that palm oil is trans-fat-free and supports 240,000 small farmers in Malaysia. In addition, food manufacturers often use palm oil as a substitute for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are rich in harmful trans fats.
"The action taken by French Senator Daudigny, to propose onerous new burdens on palm oil producers, is irresponsible, badly-informed and ignores the primary source of saturated fats in the French diet. Not only will the legislative proposal hurt local business communities in France, which have opted to use palm oil for its superior economic and functional attributes, but the attack comes after the start of talks by Malaysian palm oil representatives with French leaders, industry and civil society to work together to correct misperceptions about palm oil,” he said.
Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron said that most saturated fat in the French diet comes from animal sources, with meat, milk, cheese and butter accounting for 34.4 kg of saturated fat per year for the average French person. In comparison, average saturated fat consumption from palm oil is 2 kg per year.
"Senator Daudigny's proposed tax is part of an aggressive and unprovoked attack against palm oil. Instead, Senator Daudigny should focus his efforts on all saturated fats,” he said.
Health authorities across Europe have advised consumers to avoid artificial trans fats, which increase so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol) while simultaneously decreasing ‘good’ cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol). Consumers are also advised to limit saturated fat consumption, which raises LDL cholesterol levels. However, saturated fat also increases HDL cholesterol.