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Description of key information

Carcinogenicity: Carcinogenic (based on the presence of safrole in cinnamon bark oil in a typical concentration of 0.4%)

Key value for chemical safety assessment

Justification for classification or non-classification

Based on the presence of safrole in cinnamon bark oil in a typical concentration of 0.4%, cinnamon bark oil is classified as carcinogenic in accordance with the classification criteria in Annex I of the CLP Regulation (1272/2008/EC)

Additional information

Cinnamon bark oil contains the constituent safrole, which is considered to be a carcinogen category 2B (the agent is possibly carcinogenic to humans; the exposure circumstance entails exposures that are possibly carcinogenic to humans) by the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) from the World Health Organisation (WHO) (IARC Monograph Volume 10). Under the European Dangerous Substance Directive, safrole is considered to be a carcinogen category 2 (substance which should be regarded as if they are carcinogenic to humans). According to Regulation 1272/2008/EC (CLP), safrole is considered to be a carcinogen category 1B (may cause cancer).


As natural constituent of a number of spices, the Scientific Committee on Food prepared an opinion on the safety of the presence of safrole in food constituent (SCF, 2001). An estimated average intake (for consumers only) is calculated to be 0.3 mg/day and the 97.5th percentile to 0.5 mg/day, based on food intake assessments by UK and France, and assuming a concentration of 0.5 mg safrol/kg food in general, and 2 mg safrol/kg for food containing cinnamon. In a previous evaluation (Council of Europe, 1995), in which a rough figure for estimating the intake of safrole was assumed to be 1 mg/person/day from food and spices and 1 mg/person/day from essential oils.

Furthermore, in Council Directive 88/388/EEC, maximum limits are set for safrole (and isosafrole) obtained from flavourings and other food ingredients with flavouring properties present in foodstuffs as consumed in which flavourings have been used. Safrole (and isosafrole) are not allowed to be added as such to foodstuffs or to flavourings. However, when it is present either naturally or following the additions of flavourings prepared from natural raw materials, maximum limits are 1 mg/kg in foodstuffs and beverages (with exceptions for alcoholic beverages: <25% volume of alcohol 2 mg/kg, >25% volume of alcohol 5 mg/kg, and for foodstuffs containing mace and nutmeg 15 mg/kg).


As part of cosmetic products, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has issued a standard for the restriction of safrole, isosafrole and dihydrosafrole concentrations in consumer products, based on the conclusions of the Scientific Committee on Cosmetology of the EEC on safrole and on the similarity of the biological activity of these substances (Scientific Committee of Cosmetology of the EEC, opinion reached on September 2, 1980; Communication to the EEC Commission ENV/521/79 and IARC Monograph Vol. 10, 1976, 231-244).

The IFRA standard prohibits the use of safrole as such as a fragrance ingredient. Essential oils containing safrole should not be used at a level such that the total concentration of safrole exceeds 0.01% in consumer products. Furthermore, the total concentration of safrole, isosafrole and dihydrosafrole should not exceed 0.01% in consumer products.


As it is not practicable to prohibit the use of safrole-containing fragrances/spices, the amounts of safrole should be kept as low as possible. When the above standards are followed, it is believed that the risk of safrole as a natural constituent in cinnamon bark oil is kept as low as practicably possible.


In cinnamon bark oil the typical concentration of safrole is 0.4 %. This allows the conclusion that the IFRA standard can be maintained for the use of cinnamon bark oil in consumer products.