There is a move to change the basis of the permitted level of coumarin to a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI), based on a persons consumption and body weight, rather than a simple measurement of content in a food with no reference to how much is eaten and the consumer.

The proposed TDI of coumarin is 0.1 mg/kg body wt.  A TDI is a more logical measurement, but increases the problems for the industry.  For a 50 kg person, the TDI would be 5 mg/kg coumarin, equivalent to around 1 g cassia/person/day.  However, limits for children would be much lower – and this can be an important factor, as many of the issues surround consumption of sweet biscuits – much liked by children and who may eat more than adults.

Although the basis of the TDI is dietary intake, it has to account for all sources of coumarin, not just from food, and it is becoming clear that cosmetics are an important source of coumarin, and herbal/medicinal/food supplements based on cassia may also deliver very high doses of coumarin.  For cosmetics, there are no limits on the addition of coumarin, although as the substance is an allergen its content must be declared if above a certain level.  It is clear that normal use of creams, perfumes, skin gels etc can result in coumarin intake levels up to half the recommended TDI.  Coumarin is easily absorbed through the skin, and while there is no research yet to show that coumarin absorbed through this route has hepatotoxic effect, it must be assumed that it does until shown otherwise.

Use of cassia in herbal/food supplements can also result in the ingestion of very high levels of cassia accounting for a substantial proportion – or exceeding – the recommended TDI.  Both the authoritative German Commission E and the WHO Monographs on cinnamon and cassia recommend a daily dose in the range 2 to 4 gms – which would give a very high dose of coumarin if cassia is used.





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