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Wikimedia Commons

8 Things You May Not Know About Nutella

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

1. Napoleon and Hitler are responsible for the world's Nutella addiction.

Back in 1806, Napoleon tried to freeze out British commerce as a means to win the Napoleonic wars (and take over the world). The result was a disastrous continental blockade that caused the cost of chocolate to skyrocket and left Piedmontese chocolatiers in the lurch. Ever resourceful, chocolatiers in Turin started adding chopped hazelnuts to chocolate to stretch the supply as much as possible. The ensuing deliciousness was a fateful paste dubbed “gianduia.”

Over a century later, chocolate again became expensive and scarce due to rationing in Europe during World War II. An Italian pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero once again turned to the mighty hazelnut for salvation in 1946 and created Pasta Gianduja, renamed “Nutella” in 1964.

2. It actually is the breakfast of champions.

According to the Guinness World Records, Nutella's 40th Anniversary breakfast celebration in Germany in 2005 earned the title of “Largest Continental Breakfast.” A total of 27,854 people gathered in Gelsenkirchen to enjoy a meal that consisted of little more than Nutella itself. 

3. It sells like hotcakes.

One jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds throughout the world. According to the United States Census Bureau, one person is born every eight seconds. You do the math.

4. It spreads far and wide.

Not only is it available for purchase and feverish consumption in 75 countries, all of the Nutella sold in a year could be spread over more than 1000 soccer fields.

5. Nutella-related crimes are on the rise.

In 2013 the chocolate-hazelnut spread made headlines in Germany, where thieves pulled off a $20,000 heist, stealing 5.5 metric tons of the sweet stuff from a parked truck. Several weeks earlier, Columbia University found itself at the center of “Nutella-gate,” an expose smearing the school for spending $6000 per week on the spread for one of its dining facilities, where students were allegedly snarfing 100 pounds of it per day.

6. World Nutella Day Has Been a Bit of a Roller-Coaster.

Two bloggers in Italy decided to take their love of Nutella to the next level in 2007, and created a worldwide day of celebration dedicated to the addictive substance. Thus, every year February 5th is a day for eating Nutella, sharing Nutella recipes and memories, and looking at photos of Nutella food-porn. In 2013, Nutella manufacturer Ferrero tried to shut down World Nutella Day before reconsidering. But as of 2015, at the request of Nutella Day founder Sara Rosso, Ferrero took over the holiday.

7. There's no masking the flavor.

The chocolate and hazelnut substance gianduia is named after a character from Italian commedia dell'arte named Gianduja. He is depicted as a smiling Piedmontese peasant with a three-point hat who rides around town on a donkey clutching a duja—which in the Piedmontese dialect means “container.” The duja was said to hold wine ... but could have just as easily held a few pounds of that chocolatey hazelnut goodness, no? Gianduja masks are sold all over the Piedmont region of Italy, and his face was plastered all over early Nutella advertisements.

8. Nutella has a smeared reputation.

Nutella became so popular in Italy that Italian markets began to offer free “smears” of Nutella to any kid who showed up with a piece of bread. The phenomenon was referred to as “The Smearing,” and while it could potentially double as the name of a horror flick, was a highly successful marketing strategy. No wonder we're all addicted.

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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