Nutella Maker Fights Back Against Cancer-Causing Claims

PHOTO: Jars of Nutella are displayed on a shelf at a market in this Aug. 18, 2014 file photo in San Francisco.PlayJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
WATCH Nutella Maker Fighting Back Over Report Ingredient May Cause Cancer

The maker of Nutella is fighting back against a finding by food safety officials in Europe that palm oil used in Nutella's chocolate-hazelnut spread could pose a potential cancer risk.

"Ferrero wants to assure its consumers that Nutella and other Ferrero products that contain palm oil are safe," Ferrero, the Italian company behind Nutella, told ABC News in a statement Thursday.

Ferrero has been defending its popular Nutella product since a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) indicated palm oil can create carcinogens when processed at temperatures above 393 degrees, as is the case with Nutella.

The company described to ABC News the steps it says it takes to lessen any potential risks from processed palm oil.

"When palm oil, produced and processed to minimalize the presence of these contaminants, is refined correctly, it contains a lower level of contaminants than other vegetable oils that have been treated at excessive temperatures," the statement read. "This case applies to the palm oil used by Ferrero, who for years has been able to significantly reduce the levels of contaminants in its palm oil compared to conventional palm oils available on the market, similar to the levels found in other vegetable oils that have been processed properly, in line with EFSA's parameters.

"This is due to careful harvesting, from the squeezing in the quickest possible time to the processes and manufacturing at the lowest possible temperatures," the statement continued. "We manage all technological-productive factors with the aim to reduce the duration and the temperatures of the processes, thus minimizing the risks of possibly developing or increasing 2MCPD, 3MCPD or GE. Furthermore, our Quality Assurance and Process Control Systems allow us to constantly monitor such factors and guarantee the food safety of our products to the consumer."

The EFSA report, first released in May, said that more study is needed on the risk of palm oil processed at high degrees.

The company released a commercial in Italy late last year to assure customers the product is safe.

Palm oil is found in a variety of processed foods, from margarine to instant noodles and whipped topping, according to Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor.

"If you have a diverse diet, you're not going to be taking in too much of [palm oil]," Besser said today on "Good Morning America."

The current research on a possible connection between palm oil and cancer has been conducted only on animals, according to Besser.

"There have been no studies to show a palm oil connection to cancer in humans," he said.

Officials from The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told Besser they are monitoring research on the effects of palm oil in processed foods.

"I talked to the FDA yesterday, they said they're aware of these studies but from their perspective palm oil is safe to be used in foods," Besser said. "They'll continue to look at the evidence.

When it comes to eating Nutella, Besser advised treating it as an occasional food due to its higher sugar content.

"It should not be an everyday food," Besser said. "It is not a breakfast food."

ABC News' Anastasia E. Williams contributed to this report.