Friday, June 18, 2010

Nutella endangered?

The European Union is at it again. This time they are proposing regs that would call for the labelling of "unhealthy" foods as such, and possible bans on their advertising. The internationally beloved hazelnut cream, which is very high in sugar and fats, would be subject to these rules.

Italians (and children everywhere) are in an uproar. The unpopular proposals were created to address rising obesity levels in Europe.

But if I may be allowed to paraphrase the anti-gun-control people (of whom I am not one): food doesn't make people fat, people make people fat. If something has a lot of sugar or fat, you limit your consumption. The problem of obesity is behavioral. If you want to eat a gigantic jar of Nutella, like forlorn actor-director Nanni Moretti in the movie Bianca, that's your problem. Tellingly, the ever-thin Moretti was over-eating because he was upset over love problems and trying to compensate with food. He knew it was fattening already. Who doesn't? A little sticker saying "this may be hazardous to your health" was not going to stand between him and his 4-foot jar.

Nutella was formulated in Italy originally in the 1940's, due to the high cost of chocolate and the ready availability of hazelnuts in the Piemonte region. Its final version, and the name Nutella, date from 1964 (it had previously been known as Supercrema.) I was in Italy at the time, a very skinny kid and a great Nutella and crusty bread lover. The product has been around all this time, but obesity has only increased greatly in recent decades. Further, Italians, who obviously live where Nutella is from, are among the slimmest people in the Western world. And owner Michele Ferrero is the richest man in Italy, and 28th richest in the world.

So, to paraphrase Pink Floyd: EU, leave them kids alone!