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Sassafras debate...
 
 
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jcaps
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Joined: Jan 08, 2011
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:32 pm    Post subject: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

Hello there,
I am new to making root beer. After doing some research it seems that Sassafras is a main ingredient in old-school root beers (which I am going for).

I've been having trouble finding safrole-free sassafras.After looking on this forum it seems that LorAnn oils has a food-grade sassafras. Does anyone know of any other places that might sell it?

Also, it seems that a lot of recipes use Sarsaparilla which I was able to buy locally here in Boulder. Could this be used to replace sassafras or would I be losing the root beer flavor? Thanks a lot!
  
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aruzinsky
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Joined: Oct 13, 2004
Posts: 147
Location: IL, USA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:51 am    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

Lorann "sassafras" is not sassafras nor does it taste anything like sassafras. Safrole is what makes sassafras taste like sassafras. There are no good substitutes. Sassafras herb is widely available. I even saw it at Whole Foods.

Please, stop spreading the delusion that government is credible or competent. Most recently, children's teeth were stained by US government recommended levels of fluoride in drinking water. Near the time safrole was banned, the US government was lying about the number of casualties in the Vietnam war while promoting the domino theory which was later proved wrong. More recently, they lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. By what stretch of your imagination do you believe that government isn't lying about safrole?

jcaps wrote:
Hello there,
I am new to making root beer. After doing some research it seems that Sassafras is a main ingredient in old-school root beers (which I am going for).

I've been having trouble finding safrole-free sassafras.After looking on this forum it seems that LorAnn oils has a food-grade sassafras. Does anyone know of any other places that might sell it?

Also, it seems that a lot of recipes use Sarsaparilla which I was able to buy locally here in Boulder. Could this be used to replace sassafras or would I be losing the root beer flavor? Thanks a lot!
  
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learylax3r
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Joined: Apr 03, 2012
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

jcaps wrote:
Hello there,
I am new to making root beer. After doing some research it seems that Sassafras is a main ingredient in old-school root beers (which I am going for).

I've been having trouble finding safrole-free sassafras.After looking on this forum it seems that LorAnn oils has a food-grade sassafras. Does anyone know of any other places that might sell it?

Also, it seems that a lot of recipes use Sarsaparilla which I was able to buy locally here in Boulder. Could this be used to replace sassafras or would I be losing the root beer flavor? Thanks a lot!


I know its been a while since you posted this, but... I just tried brewing with safrole free sassafras from American Spice Company. I'll let you know how it tastes when its carbonated. As for sarsaparilla it is a root beer, and if you've had the barrel candies, that's the flavor that it creates. so if you're looking for a sweeter root beer go sarsaparilla. if you want to know how the safrole free stuff comes out, you might have to wait a bit longer
  
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iolar
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Joined: Aug 19, 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:10 am    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

I was reading up on this recently, and when the FDA was testing safrole on their lab-rats, they fed MASSIVE doses to their subjects in order to get the liver damage and cancer effects. And, those effects were only felt in a percentage of the test subjects. So, the risk levels are probably dependant on the people drinking the root beer (and seem to be quite low or non-existent in the case of the normal dose you would get in a bottle of root beer). Also, consider, that the Native Americans cooked with sassafras root for millennia without any problems, and early settlers used sassafras extensively for beverages and tonics. Also, people consumed sassafras root beer up until the 60's with no problem. It would be interesting to see if there was ANY drop in health problems as a result of the FDA ruling in the 60's.

A people tend to notice when people start dying from some food they are ingesting over the long-term.
  
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kguske
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Joined: Jun 27, 2003
Posts: 330
Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, iolar. I'm not sure what motivated the FDA to perform that "test" or why the scientific community didn't question this approach. Their own history suggests significant, though valid, paranoia about medicines at the time (see "Problems with Drug Potency").

As [url=http://sassafrasandhistory.blogspot.com/2006/11/to-root-beer-white-with-foam-what-do.html#!/2006/11/to-root-beer-white-with-foam-what-do.html]this site[/url], in addition to taking a shot at this site for leaving the question unanswered (I remedied this today, but would have found it much sooner if the blogger had actually linked to the correct page or posted a message on this site), points out that fans of safrole have invited the FDA to detail how it tested this in detail, which seems to contradict its earlier claim that the "FDA is clear that safrole is such a human carcinogen that is is banned." Maybe the blogger missed the 1994 ruling, which answers yet another question that should be obvious: if sassafras oil is still banned (which wasn't even asked), why is now available? Smile
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iolar
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

I ran into someone online who posted about this when I was researching this subject over a year ago, and I wish I had have save the link, because they sounded very knowledgeable and numbers and data to back up their accusations (which otherwise would have sounded more like a conspiracy rant). I tried to find it again, and haven't been successful (yet). But, here's what they said in a nutshell. During Prohibition, sodas became very popular as beverages, because those businesses that used to make beer had to do SOMETHING to stay afloat. A lot of them started making root beers, which had been around for a long time, but never enjoyed a wide-spread popularity. After Prohibition was repealed, sodas (and root beers in particular) continued in popularity, especially as drinks for children. In the late 50's and early 60's, companies that focused only on sodas (especially the cola companies), which up to that time had only had a small share of the soda market, embarked on a campaign to destroy the popularity of root beer. So, they pressured (or did back-room dealings) to get the FDA to intensely investigate the ingredients in root beer, and they lucked into the fact that safrole, when ingested in insanely high amounts (a fact that was nicely glossed over at the time), could cause cancer and liver failure. And, with that fact in hand, the cola companies started an ad campaign to brand colas as the "safe" alternative to root beers. And, from the early 60's until the 80's, they were very successful in destroying a large percentage of the root beer industry. It didn't help that a lot of root beers of the time were made by regular beer companies. Root beer, however, really began to make a comeback in the 80's to the present. The fact that a LOT of "root beers" didn't even use sassafras (like ones that were strictly sarsaparilla, or birch beers, or spruce beers, et. al.) was ignored - all root beers of any type were branded as "unsafe" for human consumption. What a crock! Ginger ales, however, continued on in popularity because the cola companies never were able to find anything bad to pin on them. And, ginger beers are an old beverage, dating all the way back to the 1700's in Britain.
  
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Ittiz
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

Anyone who's worried about Safrole in Sassafras should read this: http://potency.lbl.gov/pdfs/herp.pdf

If you want to see where a glass of root beer lands on this index jump to page 14. It turns out it has about half the cancer causing potential of the air in a regular home.
  
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iolar
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

Ittiz wrote:
It turns out it has about half the cancer causing potential of the air in a regular home.


Great link. And, the ratio of 0.4:0.03 is more like 13:1, which makes drinking traditional root beer more than 10 times safer than breathing (in pretty much any building). Makes the cola-company conspiracy theorists look like they might have been on to something Smile
  
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Ittiz
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

iolar wrote:
Ittiz wrote:
It turns out it has about half the cancer causing potential of the air in a regular home.


Great link. And, the ratio of 0.4:0.03 is more like 13:1, which makes drinking traditional root beer more than 10 times safer than breathing (in pretty much any building). Makes the cola-company conspiracy theorists look like they might have been on to something Smile


You have to look on page 14 it states a glass of root beer a day gives a number of 0.2. 0.03 is the number for the average amount in spices like nutmeg. So it's 1/2 the cancer causing potential of air in a normal normal house, 1/7th that of a mobile home and 1/9th that of a bottle of beer. Still very small. I believe this also assumes that humans produce the same carcinogenic byproducts that rats do upon breaking Safrole down. This study shows that to not be the case: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14422 which basically means it's probably even less carcinogenic than the values shown in the previous link. I think there is only one human case linking Safrole to human cancer. A guy who chewed Betel his whole life (a nut high in Safrole people in Asia often chew) got liver cancer. However he was also a smoker. So the link is dubious at best.
  
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iolar
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 4:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Sassafras debate... Reply with quote

Yup -- you're right. I stand corrected.
  
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aruzinsky
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Joined: Oct 13, 2004
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Location: IL, USA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This argument is moot because, even, if safrole or sassafras oil were legal in food, manufacturers would avoid using them in the USA because safrole is a government controlled substance because it can be used to make the illegal drug, "ecstacy'". Heliotropin, which is deemed safe in food, is no longer a food ingredient for that same reason. The added cost of following government regulations makes its use impractical.

Although nothing tastes like safrole or sassafras oil, dihydroanethol tastes like a mixture of anise and sassafras oils. Many commercial root beer recipes from the late 1800s and early 1900s consisted largely of wintergreen, sassafras, and anise oils. Thus, it should be possible to closely imitate the flavors of these old root beers by using dihydroanethol. In my experiments with dihydoanethol, I was able to closely replicate the flavor of Fanta Root Beer, which is no longer available, at least, in bottles. The recipe for Fanta Root Beer is owned by the Coca Cola Co which sells Barqs Root Beer. In my opinion, Fanta Root Beer was the best root beer available in my life time. Evidence suggests that it tasted very similar to some commercial root beers from the late 1800s.
  
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