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Coumarin in Plants and Fruits: Implication in Perfumery

Contact Author François Floc’h, Frédéric Mauger, Jean-Roger Desmurs and Arielle Gard,
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Is there a risk for perfumers and fl avorists to use coumarin in their formulations? The purpose of this article is to give users adequate information to answer to this question. Coumarin (1,2-benzopyrone, cis-o-coumarinic acid lactone) is a naturally occurring constituent of many plants and essential oils, including Tonka beans (Diepteryx odorata), sweet clover (Melilotus alba), sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata), galium (Galium odoratum) and lavender (Lavandula).

Through its natural occurrence in many consumable ingredients, the usage of coumarin as a food flavoring raises many controversies. Banned since 1954 by the FDA, the food limit currently authorized by the European commission is 2 mg/kg food. This is a large restriction for a product that occurs naturally in various plants and essential oils, because its consumption in the human diet can easily reach 11 mg/day through natural food ingredients.

In this paper, the quantity of coumarin that can be daily absorbed will be demonstrated, coumarin metabolism will be reviewed to highlight the differences between humans and rodents, and the first results of a survey showing that high purity coumarin is not allergenic will be presented.

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