Coumarin and Safrole Content in Cinnamon-Flavored Food Products on the Syrian Market


Cinnamon, Coumarin, Safrole, High-performance liquid chromatography, cinnamon-flavored foods.

How to Cite

Raw’aa Solaiman, & Joumaa Al-Zehouri. (2017). Coumarin and Safrole Content in Cinnamon-Flavored Food Products on the Syrian Market. Journal of Pharmacy and Nutrition Sciences, 7(3), 124–129.


Some plants that are processed into foods often contain natural substances that may be hazardous to human health. One example is coumarin, which is known to cause liver and kidney damage in rats, mice and probably humans. Coumarin is found in different Cinnamomum species such as Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum loureiroi, and Cinnamomum burmannii; all commonly referred to as cassia. Another hazardous substance is Safrole. Safrole is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals; and is mainly present in cinnamon leaf oil and could be a possible contaminant in cinnamon powder. European Council’s Directive on food flavourings 88/388/EEC limits safrole in foodstuffs to 1ppm. The content of coumarin is regulated in the European Regulation (EC) No 1334/2008. In the present study, coumarin and safrole levels were analyzed in locally bought cinnamon samples and cinnamon-flavored food products using a validated HPLC method with diode array detector (DAD). Appreciable amounts of coumarin were found in bakery products with concentrations up to 39.466 mg/kg in certain kinds of cookies, whereas safrole was undetectable. Our exposure data on coumarin in bakery products show that there is still a need for a continued regulation of coumarin in foods. A toxicological re-evaluation of coumarin with the aim to derive scientifically founded maximum limits should be conducted with priority.


Clark GS. Coumarin: An aroma chemical profile. Perfumer & Flavorist 1995; 20: 3-34.

Lake BG. Coumarin metabolism, toxicity and carcinogenicity: relevance for human risk assessment. Food Chem Toxicol 1999; 37: 423-453.

Ravindran PN, Nirmal-Babu K, Shylaja M. Introduction in Cinnamon and Cassia: The genus Cinnamomum. Boca Raton: CRC Press 2004; pp. 1-13.

Blahova J, Svobodova Z. Assessment of coumarin levels in ground cinnamon available in the Czech retail market. Scientific World J 2012; 26: 38-51.

Miller KG, Poole CF, Pawloski TM. Classification of the botanical origin of cinnamon by solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography. J Chromatogr 1996; 42: 639-46.

EFSA. Opinion of the scientific panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) related to Coumarin. EFSA J 2004; 104: 1-36.

Abraham K, Pfister M, Wöhrlin F, et al. Relative bioavailability of coumarin from cinnamon and cinnamon-containing foods compared to isolated coumarin: a four-way crossover study in human volunteers. Mol Nutr Food Res 2011; 55: 644-53.

European Council. Council Directive of 22 June 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to flavourings for use in foodstuffs and to source materials for their production. OJEU 88/388/EEC 1988; p. 1-10.

European Parliament and Council. Regulation (EC) no 1334/2008 of the European Parliament and of the council of 16 December 2008 on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods and amending council regulation (EEC) no 1601/91, regulations (EC) no 2232/96 and (EC) no 110/2008 and directive 2000/13/EC. OJEU 2008; 354: 34-50.

Carlson M, Thompson RD. Liquid chromatographic determination of safrole in sassafras-derived herbal products. J AOAC Int 1997; 80: 1023-28.

Bisset N. Sassafras lignum. in Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press 1994; pp. 455-56.

EEC. Council Directive 88/388/EEC of 21 June 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the member States relating to flavourings for use in foodstuffs and to source materials for their production. OJEU 1988; 184: 61-67.

Maggi F, Barboni L, Caprioli G, et al. HPLC quantification of coumarin in bastard balm (Melittis melissophyllum L., Lamiaceae). Fitoterapia 2011; 82: 1215-21.

Choong YM, Lin HJ. A Rapid and Simple Gas Chromatographic Method for Direct Determination of Safrole in Soft Drinks. J Food Drug Anal 2001; 9: 27-32.

ICH Harmonised Tripartite Guideline. Validation of analytical procedures: text and methodology Q2 (R1) 2005;, (Accessed April 8, 2013).

Ballin NZ, Sørensen AT. Coumarin content in cinnamon containing food products on the Danish market. Food Control 2014; 38: 198-203.

Abraham K, Wöhrlin F, Lindtner O, et al. Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: focus on human data. Mol Nutr Food Res 2010; 54: 228-39.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2017 Raw'aa Solaiman , Joumaa Al-Zehouri