Matteo Salvini has taken his brand of nativism to new levels by declaring that he no longer eats Nutella because it is made with too many hazelnuts from Turkey.
The leader of the Italian opposition often makes a point in homely social media posts of extolling the delights of Italian food, posting photos of himself lifting a glass of Tuscan red or tucking into a pizza.
The message is in keeping with his rallying cry of “Italians first”, an appeal to nationalist sentiment that has made his League party the most popular in the country with more than 30% of voter support.
On Friday, he said he was no longer a fan of the sticky chocolate spread, which is made by the Italian company Ferrero, after learning that it contained hazelnuts imported from Turkey.
Some Turkish nuts are used because Italian growers cannot satisfy all of Ferrero’s needs but the breakfast spread does contain home-grown hazel nuts as well.
“I found out that Nutella uses Turkish nuts and I prefer to help companies that use Italian products. I prefer to eat Italian and help Italian farmers because they need help,” the leader of the hard-Right League said at a rally in the northern city of Ravenna after a woman in the crowd suggested he eat a Nutella sandwich to keep his energy up.
His anti-Nutella declaration was criticised by Stefano Buffagni, the deputy industry minister, who said: “He’s nuts. His attack on one of Italy’s best known and most widely sold products, Nutella, is proof of that. Ferrero is a leading company in Italy that gives jobs to thousands of people,” said Mr Buffagni, from the Five Star Movement, which governs in coalition with the centre-Left Democratic Party.
“It’s true that Turkish hazelnuts are used. But a quarter of the hazelnuts come from Italy, which is unable to satisfy the demand for this product”.
Matteo Renzi, former prime minister and now head of a small centre-Left breakaway party, said it was absurd that Mr Salvini was targeting Nutella at a time when the country is debating the future of Nato, next year’s national budget, job losses at Alitalia and the threatened closure of a huge steel plant in the south. “He says these things to try to appear closer to the people,” he said.
Mr Salvini is in full campaign mode, hoping to wrest the northern Emilia-Romagna region from the centre-Left in elections next month.