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General Food Safety

Is sassafras tea safe to drink?

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of sassafras tea in 1976. Sassafras contains safrole that was found to produce liver cancer in rats. If you see sassafras for sale it should be marked "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION." The root, oil, and leaves are not allowed in food. Commercially a safrole-free extract is made from the root bark. It is allowed in foods. It is not possible to make a safrole-free product with a home procedure.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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