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French Senate rejects palm oil tax

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 16-Nov-2012

The French Senate rejected its so-called ‘Nutella tax’ on Thursday, which aimed to quadruple the tax on palm oil, a key ingredient in the hazelnut-chocolate spread.

Senator Yves Daudigny had proposed an extra €300 per tonne tax on the oil, on top of an existing €100 tax, in an effort to prompt food manufacturers to use healthier vegetable oils in their products.

Before the vote, Daudigny said in a statement: Many people have questioned the reasons for taxation. So I repeat one more time, it has only one purpose: to fight against obesity and cardiovascular disorders.”

Senators rejected the amendment by 186 votes to 155, with communists siding with the UMP and centrists, rather than the ruling Socialist party.

CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron welcomed the vote and called for a “science-based discussion” about palm oil between France and Malaysia.

"The passing of the palm oil amendment by the French Senate was not based on science, and was an unjustified attack against hundreds of thousands of small farmers across Malaysia,” he said. “…There is no justification for the campaign of Senator Yves Daudigny.”

Last week, the MPOC pointed out that palm oil contributes a relatively small amount of saturated fat to the average French diet, compared to saturated fat from animal products.

Daudigny’s proposal had also come in for criticism from food manufacturers, many of whom use palm oil as a healthier alternative to hydrogenated vegetable oils. Palm oil is high in saturated fats, but is useful in food formulations because of its stability in processing and to extend shelf life of processed foods. Many other vegetable oils are difficult to use in processed foods without hydrogenation, which renders them solid at room temperature and more stable, but also makes them high in trans fats.

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.

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