Fashionable beverage absinth: BfR advises consumers to exercise caution with this product!

At the beginning of the 20th century, absinth was popular with artists and writers. It has now come back into fashion. "Trendy" is the spirit with the nickname "The Green Fairy" (Fr. la fée verte) particularly because the green bitter beverage is said to produce states of intoxication owing to its ingredient thujone which cannot be achieved by drinking only alcohol. Thujone is a natural ingredient of wormwood and wormwood oil (or absinth) produced from it and of mugwort and sage. It is a strong neurotoxin which may cause hallucinations, epileptic convulsions and severe mental damage. Hence, there are statutory limits for thujone levels in Germany. A BfR study on thujone exposure in absinth consumers confirms that the statutory maximum limits are largely complied with by the absinth beverages on the market today. BfR does not expect a specific risk to the consumer from these products. Because of the, in some cases, very high alcohol content, the Institute does still advise consumers to exercise caution in their consumption.

Within the framework of this study, BfR with the support of the official food control bodies of the federal states determined the thujone content of 20 absinth beverages on the market in Germany. The results confirm that most of the spirits examined contain less than 10 mg/l thujone and comply with the statutory provisions. All the same, amongst the absinth beverages examined, there were also three bitter spirits which clearly exceed the statutory maximum limit of 35 mg/l with contents of up to 44.9 mg/l thujone. BfR has informed the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety and asked for corresponding action to be taken. At the concentrations measured in the study it is not to be expected that consumers take up damaging amounts of thujone. Nevertheless, the bitter spirits do contain high levels of alcohol. As in the case of other highly concentrated spirits, BfR, therefore, advises against regularly consuming larger amounts (more than one glass daily) over a longer period.

The results of the study on the "load situation of absinth with thujone" in Germany are published in BgVV Heft 08/2002. This publication can be obtained subject to payment of a token fee of EUR 8. Please send orders in writing to the Press Office of BfR, Thielallee 88-92, 14195 Berlin (fax: 030-8412-4970, e-mail: 

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