French minister apologizes after sparking Nutella row

France's Ecology Minister Segolene Royal apologised for telling people not to eat Nutella

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France's Ecology Minister Segolene Royal apologised Wednesday for telling people not to eat Nutella because it contributed to deforestation and climate change.

"A thousand apologies for the row over Nutella," she wrote on her official Twitter account.

The mea culpa related to comments she made on French television on Monday, when she said "we should stop eating Nutella... because it's made with palm oil" -- an ingredient that ensures the soft but not liquid consistency of the popular chocolate-hazelnut spread.

In the interview, she argued that oil palm plantations were supplanting forests, leading to deforestation and causing "considerable damage to the environment".

Those assertions drew fire from Italy, where Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella, is based.

Ferrero stressed all its palm oil -- which comes mainly from Malaysia -- is sourced in a responsible way.

Italian politicians and media broadened the attack on what they saw as an unimpeachable national product.

"Segolene Royal should leave Italian products alone. The menu tonight: bread and Nutella," Italy's environment minister, Gian Luca Galletti, said in a tweet.

The wife of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Agnese Renzi, was even photographed going to a 'Nutella concept bar' at an Expo fair in Milan with her daughter and ordering a Nutella-and-cream crepe.

Several Italian politicians called on Royal to apologise, while the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said the French minister's "crusade" was wrongheaded and a Nutella boycott would do nothing against deforestation.

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