The War on Cinnamon: More EU Regulatory Overreach

Daniel Kochis /



The European Union (EU) is well known for its regular attempts to regulate even the smallest and most miniscule parts of life on the continent. In May 2013, the EU dropped plans to ban refillable olive oil containers and olive oil plates in restaurants when public outcry over the absurd policy reached a crescendo. Not to be deterred, bureaucrats in Brussels have found a new target for their regulatory overreach: cinnamon—or more specifically a common type of cinnamon named cassia.

Some research indicates that a chemical called coumarin, found naturally in cassia cinnamon, can potentially cause liver problems in large doses, especially for people with certain risk factors. The EU has therefore crafted rules regulating the amount of cassia cinnamon that bakers can use in their cinnamon rolls. These rolls go by different names depending on what country you are in, but they play an important cultural role in many European nations, especially in Scandinavian countries.

According to the EU regulations, the maximum amount of coumarin that pastries can contain is either 15 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of dough or 50mg per kg of dough, depending on how the pastry is classified by national authorities. Each nation can classify their cinnamon buns as either “everyday foods” or “seasonal or holiday” treats.

Swedish authorities dubbed their kanelbullar a holiday food, giving Swedish bakers 50mg to work with per kg of dough. Norway’s skillingsboller is not susceptible to EU regulations since Norway is not an EU member nation. Denmark’s cinnamon bun, the kanelsnegler, however, will face the full might of the EU food police, after Danish authorities at the Veterinary and Food Administration listed the kanelsnegler as an everyday food, subjecting it to strict cinnamon limits—15mg per kg of dough—which will not apply to its close cousins nearby.

As this example demonstrates, the EU’s regulatory overreach seems to have no bounds, extending to the amount of cinnamon that bakers may utilize in their pastries, and nearly to how restaurants could serve olive oil to their customers.

While the Danish Bakers Association has promised to fight the regulations, Americans of all pastry affinities should keep this example in mind when we are told of the wonderful benefits of regulatory harmonization, a purported primary benefit of a U.S.–EU trade deal. As The Heritage Foundation has written, any U.S.–EU trade deal should be about free trade, not regulatory standardization.

After all, your weekend donut or child’s birthday cake could be next.