Proposals for an EU ban on cinnamon rolls have put a dampener on Denmark’s Christmas festivities
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
2:27PM GMT 26 Dec 2013
The season’s festivities in Denmark have been overshadowed by the prospect that it could be the last Danish Christmas before a European Union ban on their beloved kanelsnegler or cinnamon rolls.
The proposed ban followed plans by Denmark’s food safety agency to implement EU regulations aimed at limiting the amount of coumarin, a naturally occurring toxic chemical found in the most commonly used type of cinnamon, cassia.
Under Danish interpretation of the EU legislation the amount of cinnamon in “everyday fine baked goods” will be limited to 15mg per kilo meaning a ban on Kanelsnegler pastries, a winter favourite in all Nordic countries, which take their name from their coiled snail shape.
The move has provoked a furious reaction from Danish bakers because neighbouring Sweden has decided to save their spicy pastries, known as kanenbullar in Swedish, by classing them as a traditional and seasonal dish with a permitted cinnamon level over three times higher, at 50mg per kilo.
“It’s the end of the cinnamon roll as we know it,” said Hardy Christensen, the head of the Danish Baker’s Association.
“Cinnamon rolls are of course a traditional Danish baked product. We’ve been making bread and cakes with cinnamon for 200 years.”
Following the row, dubbed “cinnamon-gate”, the Danish food authorities have given kanelsnegler a temporary reprieve until next February while insisting “consumers should not run a risk when they eat cinnamon rolls”.
In Norway, where the pasties are known as skillingsboller, the country’s food agency issued Christmas advice warning that “heavy users of cinnamon should limit their intake”.
British research has concluded that “the extent to which coumarin is bad for the health is debatable” bypassing the need for specific UK legislation to enforce the EU laws.
“Research has shown that the average dietary intake of the UK population does not exceed the safe limits,” said CBI advice for cinnamon importers to Britain.
A study for the UK’s Food Standards Agency in 2010 found that the average dietary exposure to coumarin in Britain was 0.0018 mg per kilo of body weight, 55 times less that the EU “tolerable daily limit” of 0.1mg per kilo of body weight.
Cinnamon intake among South Asians, who consume 10 times more of it than any other section of the British population, mainly in curry spices, was only 0.022 mg per kilo of body weight, five times less that the EU limit.
“An average person would have to eat so many Danish pastries in order to be effected, they would certainly die of obesity before being hurt by a low level of cinnamon,” said Paul Nuttall, the deputy leader of Ukip.
“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.”