Permitted levels of coumarin in foods are controlled by the EU Flavourings Directive 88/388/EEC and subsequent modifications. The maximum allowable level of coumarin in foods (as a naturally occurring ingredient in the food) is set at 2 mg/kg of the foodstuff (ie 2 ppm). As a rough guide, the limits allow around 0.5 g cassia/kg of foodstuff.

Cassia, naturally, has high and variable coumarin levels; cinnamon has very low to zero levels of coumarin. High application levels of cassia with high coumarin content can lead to the regulatory limits being grossly exceeded – there are reports of product tests giving results in the range 22 to 77 mg/kg, far above the regulatory limit of 2 mg/kg. The issue for cassia is both the high levels and the variability. Tests of a range of samples showed coumarin content in the range 2,100 to 4,400 mg/kg of cassia (ie 2.1 to 4.4 gms/kg, 0.2 to 0.4%). Where manufacturers are using high levels of cassia in a product, each batch of cassia should be tested for coumarin content.

Coumarin levels in cinnamon, even when present, are not an issue. Levels of coumarin found in cinnamon are typically less than 15 mg/kg of the spice (compared with over 2,000 mg/kg for cassia).



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