Regulations Get Sticky as the Danes Ban the Danish
There is something rotten in Denmark, and it is the regulation of the danish by the Danish.
The Danes are pushing back against a government regulation that will essentially slash sales of the Kanelsnegle. The Kanelsnegle is a coiled bun of sugary goodness that we Americans (who would no doubt mangle the pronunciation of Kanelsnegle anyway) call the danish.
Why has the Danish government declared war on the danish? Well, the staple of the danish is a common form of cinnamon known as cassia. Cassia contains a toxic chemical known as coumarin. The European Union wants to limit the use of coumarin, since studies have shown it can lead to liver issues. (Putting aside, of course, the many studies that have shown the health benefits of cinnamon.)
Denmark has decided to implement the EU rules, which amount to a limit of 15 mg of cinnamon per kilogram of baked goods. As Hardy Christensen, head of the Danish Baker's Association, told the Telegraph, "It's the end of the cinnamon roll as we know it."
It is a somewhat puzzling regulatory intrusion, because Danish regultors (or, danish regulators) could have taken a pass, deeming the Kanelsnegle a "traditional" food and therefore exempt from the regulations. Indeed, the EU carved out traditional and seasonal dishes from the regulations, as if they never envisioned the Danish banning the danish. Sweden did just that with its Kanelbullar. In the end, the Danish authorities decided what's good for the Kanelbullar isn't always good for the Kanelsnegle. Go figure.
Here in the States, coumarin is already on our regulatory radar. In fact, it is against the law to add it to products that don't already contain it. It seems a natural next step to look more closely at whether the availability of coumarin in mainstream cinnamon use is bad for us. If you love your Cinnabon at the mall (meaning, if you live and breathe and are blessed with taste buds), you might not know that its signature taste is not "true" cinnamon, but rather Makara cassia, which contains coumarin. To us, that is just hot, gooey goodness. To the food police, who do hold some sway here, it might be a health risk.
Will cinammon face increased scrutiny here? It's unclear. But lost again in this debate is the role of the individual to exercise some personal responsibility and control. Of all the things to worry about when it comes to danishes or cinnamon rolls, a little cinnamon should be low on the list. As Paul Nuttall, deputy leader of the UK Independence Party, told the Telegraph: "An average person would have to eat so many Danish pastries in order to be affected, they would certainly die of obesity before being hurt by a low level of cinnamon."
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Ray Hennessey is the former editorial director of Entrepreneur.