FSSAI has received a number of representations that cassia is being sold as cinnamon in the market. Since cassia is cheaper and looks similar it is substituted by traders for cinnamon. Authentic cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum syn. Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is native of Sri Lanka and South India. Cassia (cinnamomum cassia syn C aromatica) on the other hand, is grown in China while Indonesian cassia (c. burmanii) comes from Sumatra and Java. Cassia is used as a spice and the volatile oil and oleoresin from cassia are also extensively used.
Although related, cinnamon and cassia do not come from the same plant and so are separate foods. Scientifically there is only one cinnamon which is called Ceylon Cinnamon and comes from Cinnamomum zeylanicum. They vary in chemical composition, nutritional value also. Cassia contains higher levels of coumarin as compared to cinnamon. Cassia is consumed in smaller quantities as an ingredient in curry powder prepared at home. Coumarin is not toxic and so as food cassia is considered safe.
FSSAI has prescribed standards for cinnamon and cassia. To ensure that cinnamon is not adulterated with cassia FSSAI has operationalized the amendment of standards for cinnamon with effect from 24 November 2016. The maximum limit of coumarin in cinnamon is not to be more that 0.3%by weight. Since cassia contains coumarin content in the range of 0.8% to 10.63% it can be distinguished from cinnamon which has coumarin content of around 0.2%. The Spice Board has validated the sampling and analysis by the HPLC method. As far as safety is concerned intake of coumarin does not reach dangerous levels and is not toxic to human health. Though cassia consumption is safe however, the hot peppery taste might not appeal to everyone.
FSSAI has also given the differences between cinnamon and cassia which makes it easy to identify them.
|Taste||Sweet and delicate||Strong and peppery|
|Colour||Light brown or tan||Reddish brown to dark brown|
|Look||Curls from one side only and rolls like a newspaper. It looks filled like a cigar||Bark is thicker. Curls inwards from both sides towards the centre. Forms hollow tubes.|
|Feel||Smooth to touch||Rough and uneven surface|
|Grown in||India, Sri Lanka||China, Vietnam, Indonesia|
Remember that cassia bark is a single thick roll, while a cross section of cinnamon reveals a cigarette like appearance. Consumers and those FBOs who use cinnamon as an ingredient must be aware of these differences as cassia is often mislabelled and sold as cinnamon.