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Food FYI: France's 'Nutella tax' backlash

November 15, 2012|By Betty Hallock
  • The French government approved a tax on ingredients containing palm oil, a key ingredient in Nutella.
The French government approved a tax on ingredients containing palm oil,… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Has French President Francois Hollande's regime of fiscal austerity -- cutting spending and raising taxes on rich people -- gone too far with France's "Nutella tax"?

On Wednesday, France's Senate approved a so-called Nutella amendment in an effort to encourage eating more healthfully. The government plans to quadruple taxes on products containing palm oil, an ingredient in the creamy hazelnut-chocolate spread that the French slather on toast, smear on crepes or eat by the spoonful. (And frankly, it tastes way better than peanut butter.)

Nutella is an Italian product, but France accounts for 26% of world Nutella consumption, according to French newspaper Le Monde. French Nutella fans (and palm oil exporters) are aghast, though the tax would raise the price of a jar of Nutella only a few cents.

The approved tax is expected to raise about 40 million euros ($51 million) in revenue, meant not so much to boost the budget but to reduce obesity.

But the French Senate still has to approve a package of tax increases that includes the Nutella amendment before it takes effect.

The Christian Science Monitor calls it "a tricky political move anywhere. In food-crazy France, it's dangerous."

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PLUS A RECIPE TO MAKE YOUR OWN HOMEMADE NUTELLA:

Hazelnut-chocolate spread

Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Note: Use good-quality cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger.

2 cups raw hazelnuts

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons hazelnut oil, more as needed

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet and roast until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins.

2. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, scraping the sides as needed so they process evenly, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the cocoa, sugar, vanilla, salt and oil to the food processor and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter; if it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved. Remove to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, as it thickens considerably when refrigerated. It will keep for at least a week.

Each tablespoon: 109 calories; 2 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 9 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 13 mg. sodium.

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