Are cassia sticks sold as cinnamon in Oman?
Vinod Nair –
Oct. 28: A resident of Oman recently alerted us by saying that the cinnamon sticks sold in the markets are not genuine ones. His claim was that some packets sold in the markets across Oman actually contain cassia sticks though they are labelled as cinnamons. The Observer found that both types of sticks are easily available in the market but under the cinnamon label. And the price gap also raises a question or two. The so-called genuine cinnamon sticks cost above RO1 for 40 gm, while the so called suspected cassia sticks cost less than 450 bz or even less for a packet of 150 gm.
Observer spoke to a section of the traders who dealt with the sale of cinnamon sticks.
They were just unaware or pretended to be unaware of the differences (including benefits and ill-effects) between these products. According to them, all what they sold are cinnamon sticks and nothing else.
“It is not clear whether cassia sticks come under suspected or prohibited category, but it will be totally improper to sell a product under different label,” said a trader who refused to divulge details. This concern is not peculiar to Oman and according to reports some European countries have banned import of cassia sticks, largely sourced from Far Eastern markets.
According to a classification made by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSI), ‘Cassia varieties have a stronger, more intense and often hotter flavour than cinnamon due to an increased percentage of cinnamaldehyde (organic compound that gives cinnamon its flavour and odour), up to 5-6 per cent by weight. Cassia also has a significant amount of the blood-thinning phytochemical coumarin.
FSSI adds that cinnamon and cassia sticks have obvious visual markers which make them easy to identify. “It is difficult to tell powdered cinnamon from powdered cassia but when powdered bark is treated with tincture of iodine (a test for starch), little effect is visible in the case of pure cinnamon of good quality, but when cassia is present, a deep-blue tint is produced, the intensity of the coloration depending on the proportion of cassia”.
Cassia contains chemical compound named Coumarin, which is said to be moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys, with an LD50 of 275 mg/kg. They have strong anticoagulant properties because our blood needs to maintain its ability to coagulate in times of injury, excessive intake of coumarins over a prolonged period of time can pose health risks.