While New York and Mexico consider regulating sugary drinks to battle obesity, Denmark is planning to implement a new European Union (EU) regulation that will restrict a pastry ingredient to preserve organ function. And yes, the baked good in question is the one and only Danish pastry, which is a doughy, croissant-like bread with various types of fillings and sweet toppings. The issue that the EU government has with these delectable items is that it is made with cassia, which is a type of cinnamon that contains a chemical that is known to be toxic, called coumarin. Based on numerous studies, the EU regards coumarin as harmful to the liver among other health issues.
According to a study in the British Medical Journal, coumarin has been known for its flavor-enhancing properties; the tobacco industry has used it as an additive in cigarettes for a long time because of its “new-mown-hay” taste. But in 1954, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned adding coumarin to foods that already have it because of studies finding that it had toxic effects on the nervous system, heart, blood vessels, and animal livers.
Denmark actually had the right to give this regulatory initiative a pass because of EU rules allowing countries to retain certain food privileges for the sake of tradition and seasonal dishes, Reuters reported. Sweden, for example, opted to ignore this rule so they could eat their kanenbullar in peace. But Denmark decided not to take any chances and plans to limit the amount of cinnamon to 15 mg per kilogram of baked products.
This culinary restriction isn’t going over well with more than a few Danes, which is usually the case when countries or regions plan to enforce a dietary regulation or tax. Hardy Christensen, head of the Danish Baker's Association, told the Telegraph, “It's the end of the cinnamon roll as we know it.”
Is this cinnamon restriction overkill? Will consumers’ health actually be harmed by eating a few Cinnabons here and there? Deputy leader of the UK Independence Party, Paul Nuttall, told the Telegraph, "An average person would have to eat so many Danish pastries in order to be affected, they would certainly die of obesity before being hurt by a low level of cinnamon.” He added, "We don't need the nanny state or the EU to tell us what do and certainly not how many Danish pastries we should eat for Christmas.”
But a Norwegian study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology last year found that the amounts normally used in various foods could easily do harm. The study concluded that a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for coumarin is 0.07 mg per kilogram (0.03 mg per pound) of bodyweight per day. This would mean that children and adults are surpassing this amount of exposure simply by eating a certain kind of oatmeal and cereal or drinking a type of tea a couple of times per week.