Cinnamon has been a household favourite for centuries, and is used all around the world. This popular spice comes from the inner bark of ...
Coumarin concern in cinnamon
08 March 2020
Cinnamon has been a household favourite for centuries, and is used all around the world. This popular spice comes from the inner bark of several tree species of the genus Cinnamomum
. Because of its popularity, cinnamon – especially ground cinnamon – is subject to adulteration. This is often in the form of adulteration with other species of cinnamon, some of which contain high levels of a hepatotoxic compound called coumarin, i.e., coumarin may harm your liver and increase the risk of cancer.
FACTS on Coumarin
Coumarin (2H-chromen-2-one) is an aromatic compound found in several plants in nature, including the cinnamon plant species and the tonka bean. Coumarin has a characteristically sweet odour and a bitter taste, and is an established hepatotoxin and carcinogen when consumed in large amounts. The tolerable daily intake has been defined 0.1 mg coumarin per kg body weight according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
The Risk Cinnamomum verum
, also known as Sri Lanka cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon or true cinnamon, is the most suitable species for use as a foodstuff. In terms of coumarin content, this species contains trace amounts (0.005-0.090mg coumarin/g cinnamon). In contrast, Cinnamomum cassia
, an inferior species of cinnamon often used to adulterate true cinnamon, contains up to 12.18mg coumarin/g cinnamon, presenting a high toxicity risk. C. verum
has a very subtle cinnamon flavour compared to C. cassia
, which has a much stronger, spicier cinnamon flavour – attributed to its higher levels of aromatic compounds. Both species of cinnamon are sold legally, resulting in a higher risk of C. cassia
adulteration of C. verum,
to improve the sensory quality of the product. Another potential adulterant of true cinnamon, especially in ground form, is tonka beans. Tonka beans contain high levels of coumarin, which impart a sweet flavour, thus improving the perceived sensory properties of spices such as cinnamon and vanilla at a lower financial cost. In recent years, cinnamon has also been adulterated with coffee husks and lead. FACTS offers an array of detection tests for spice adulteration, and can assist with the detection of any of the above mentioned contaminants and adulterants. If you would like more information, please contact us