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Archived Comments for: Absinthism: a fictitious 19th century syndrome with present impact

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  1. Update on the science and policy of absinthe

    Dirk Lachenmeier, CVUA Karlsruhe

    21 April 2008

    Since the publication of our article on absinthe in „Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy“ (SATPP) in May 2006 [1], original research shed further light on the thujone issue and a policy change in the US occurred, which led to the re-legalization of the first products.

    In a recently published study [2], we analyzed thirteen pre-ban absinthes, including many of the largest and most popular brands, for thujone as well as for further parameters that have been hypothesized as contributing to the toxicity of pre-ban absinthe, including naturally occurring herbal essences (e.g. pinocamphone, fenchone), methanol, higher alcohols, copper, and antimony. The results of the analysis show conclusively that the thujone concentration of pre-ban absinthe has been grossly overestimated in the past. The total thujone content of the 13 pre-ban samples was found to range between 0.5 and 48.3 mg/L. The average thujone content of 25.4 ± 20.3 mg/L fell within the modern EU limit of 35 mg/L. All other constituents were also toxicologically inconspicuous. Nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes able to explain the so-called syndrome ‘absinthism’. The research fully supports our conclusions previously drawn in our SATPP-article.

    Furthermore in addition to what we reported in SATPP, a recent policy change was observed in the U.S.A.: Starting in May 2007, the first absinthes were approved for U.S. distribution since 1912. In consideration of recent studies on absinthe and thujone, the U.S. government has concluded that finished spirits that exhibit <10 mg/l thujone (i.e. the detection limit of the AOAC method) effectively satisfy the ‘thujone-free’ requirement in accordance with US 21 CFR 172.510 [3]. This stance was adopted in accordance with the Codex Alimentarius recommendation with respect to thujone content in finished spirits, and represents not a change in the U.S. legal code, but rather an acknowledgement that an indicated thujone content of <10 mg/l is far too minute to present any genuine public health concerns. For details please refer to Ref. [2].

    References

    1. Padosch SA, Lachenmeier DW, Kröner LU: Absinthism: a fictitious 19th century syndrome with present impact. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy 2006, 1:14. http://www.substanceabusepolicy.com/content/1/1/14/.

    2. Lachenmeier DW, Nathan-Maister D, Breaux TA, Sohnius EM, Schoeberl K, Kuballa T: Chemical Composition of Vintage Preban Absinthe with Special Reference to Thujone, Fenchone, Pinocamphone, Methanol, Copper, and Antimony Concentrations. J Agric Food Chem 2008, free fulltext online. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf703568f.

    3. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau: Industry Circular Number 2007-5. Use of the term absinthe for distilled spirits. 2007. http://www.ttb.gov/industry_circulars/archives/2007/2007_05.html .

    Competing interests

    None declared.

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