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Nutella on bread

France’s ‘Nutella Amendment’ Causes Big Fat International Row

Threat to quadruple taxes on products containing palm oil, one of Nutella's key ingredients, angers producers in Malaysia

It is the sweet and sickly staple of many a French schoolchild's breakfast: la tartine de Nutella, a dollop of chocolate and hazelnut spread on a slice of baguette.

An estimated 235,000 tonnes of the paste – reportedly invented in the back room of an Italian pastry shop in 1944 – are consumed every year, around 100m pots in France alone.

Little wonder, then, that health warnings and government threats to impose a fat tax, known as the "Nutella amendment", have caused a mini revolution among Gallic consumers and sparked an international row.

On Monday, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council hit back at French claims that palm oil, a key ingredient in Nutella and widely used in margarine, biscuits and crisps, was detrimental to the environment and fuelling obesity. "Malaysia is deeply concerned with French Senator Yves Daudigny's proposed 300% tax increase on palm oil … Palm oil is a healthy, natural and important product, which 240,000 small farmers in Malaysia are proud to produce.

"Contrary to Senator Daudigny's comments, every nutritional and food expert concludes that palm oil is in fact free of dangerous trans fats, free of GMOs and contains valuable vitamins," the council's chief executive said in a statement.

Nutella's maker, Ferrero (of Ferrero Rocher chocolates fame), has also moved to reassure its customers in France, insisting that there will be no change in the recipe.

"Even if the tax is passed, we're not planning to change our recipe," Frédéric Thil, French director of the Italian company, told Le Parisien. He added that if the French went ahead with the increase, it would add at most six centimes to the price of a pot.

Nutella was first hit in 2010 by a broadside from the European Union that insisted jars of the spread would have to carry a health warning as it did not conform to the EU's "nutritional profile".

Nutella's main ingredients are sugar, milk powder, hazelnuts, cocoa, emulsifier, flavouring and palm oil, which is also used widely in margarine, biscuits and crisps.

France's Socialist government plans to quadruple taxes on products containing palm oil, arguing that its production is harmful to the environment and its consumption is fuelling obesity.

At present, palm oil is taxed at around €100 (£80) per metric tonne in France, but the government is proposing to raise this to €400. Around 20% of Nutella is palm oil.

The French government has already raised taxes on sugary drinks and is also proposing a tax hike on beer to help plug the hole in public finances and improve the nation's health.

Full Article @ Guardian

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Candy Makers Fight Sugar-Protection Bill

It's sugar versus sugar on Capitol Hill, as growers are facing off against candy makers over the United States' longstanding import restrictions that keep sugar prices high, reports the Los Angeles Times. Both sides are spending millions of dollars lobbying over the latest farm bill now before Congress—the Senate voted against repealing the program last month, but candy-makers they have a better shot in the Republican-controlled House. Those opposed to the sugar program, which requires 85% of sugar sold in the United States to come from domestic sources, claim that it causes $3.5 billion in higher food prices for consumers each year. The program's defenders say protecting sugar helps the $20 billion food-processing industry and its 142,000 workers, asserting that lower food costs don't get passed along to consumers and instead just get turned into profits for manufacturers. Wholesale sugar prices have declined 19% since August 2010, but gum and candy prices have climbed 7%, note advocates for sugar growers.

Full Article @ Newser

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New York Killjoys Looking to Ban Happy Hour

The New York Post is reporting that mysterious sources within the Department of Health are campaigning to make it illegal to offer special discounts on beer or alcohol, effectively ruining happy hour for everybody.

Before anybody panics, Gawker points out that all the sources behind the terrible rumor are anonymous. The only named official in the Post’s story is DoH spokesman Sam Miller, who denies any “plans to pursue any policy regarding discount-alcohol sale.”

The nameless sources say the anti-alcohol campaigns are being pushed by Commissioner Thomas Farley, who announced in a 2012 “Take Care New York” report that he intended to “reduce risky alcohol use.”

“DOH will advocate for policies that reduce access to alcohol by adolescents and for limits on sales practices in communities and campuses that promote drinking among adolescents and heavy drinking among adults,” he said in the report.

Nineteen states currently prohibit happy hour.

According to more anonymous sources, the Post reports that department officials have also been looking into the legality of serving liquor in ice cream. As colossal mudslides and alcoholic milkshakes are a menu staple at casual-dining chains, we can probably expect some of the big players around Times Square to have something to say about that one.

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