Why is Cascara still banned in Europe?


Cascara is the dried coffee husk from coffee cherries, which is used to make an exotic drink. Thetaste of Cascara is more like tea than coffee. You may recognise rosehip tea or hibiscus in its taste. Cascara contains a large amount of caffeine, of course it always depends on what kind of Cascara is used, just like coffee.


Before 1997, Cascara was more or less unknown in the European Union, which means that it falls under the new food legislation. However, when Cascara began to be sold more widely in Europe, most national food safety authorities assumed that Cascara was more or less the same as coffee. However, sales were still small, so regulators were not very interested in this new product.

All that changed in 2015, when Panama Varietals, an Austrian importer of green coffee, started trying to create a new soft drink based on Cascara. Some manufacturers refused to work with them because they knew Cascara had not yet been approved for sale in the European Union. So Panama Varietals, headed by Joel Jelderks, began the laborious process to get Cascara approved so it could be sold without any problems.

Once the application for approval of Cascara was submitted, it became much harder to ignore. Food safety authorities in European Union countries began to enforce the law more strictly, and major retailers pulled Cascara from sale. However, many smaller shops and coffee roasters sold Cascara despite the ban.

By 2017, the application for approval of Cascara was in the hands of European Union regulators, so it was still thought that Cascara could be put back on sale. However, some concerns have been raised about studies showing that Cascara added to feed can cause disease in some animals.

So before this application for approval of Cascara could be rejected or approved, the law changed. The new law, which came into effect in 2018, meant that a completely new application had to be submitted with various new requirements.


Two years later, that is, this year 2020, Jelderks was finally able to submit a revised application under the new law. Writing the application is more or less a separate project, which makes it a very costly and time-consuming process.

Joel Jelderks has secured some financial support for the initial rollout of Cascara from UK roasters Square Mile and Climpson & Sons. However, Panama Varietals did most of the work.

A revised application was submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in March this year and it has to make a decision within nine months, which would mean Cascara could be approved by the end of this year, although formal marketing authorisation could take a further seven months after the application is approved.

EFSA is currently assessing the completeness of the application, Jelderks says. It will soon be passed to a scientific review panel, which will make a final decision on whether all the data collected is sufficient to show that Cascara is safe to drink. Panama Varietals therefore hopes to have Cascara approved for sale by 2021.


The new application covers only Cascara produced as part of a natural process during the processing of coffee beans and only for use as an infusion in beverages. This means that Cascara products that are intended for consumption, such as Cascara flour or chocolate, will need to be approved in another separate application before they can be sold.

Approving Cascara for consumption in other countries has been much easier. In the US, companies can self-certify that a product is generally considered safe if there is a history of consumption without adverse effects. Regulatory approval in Canada and Japan, meanwhile, took less than a year. In Europe, however, the process is ongoing. "Every time we think it's close, we have to keep waiting. It's frustrating for all of us," says Panama Varietals.


Although Cascara's approval is not guaranteed by the end of the year, the finish line is in sight. If more studies need to be done, more subsidies need to be secured. But the question remains, why was it all up to one person who worked for a relatively small importer to apply on behalf of the entire industry? Where are the larger companies with their research budgets? Panama Varietals has invested time and energy into the entire project, but once Cascara is approved, they will have no patronage advantage. Cascara will be able to be sold by absolutely anyone.

Perhaps the fact that this process has taken so long will encourage other companies to come together in future applications for Cascara. Cascara for consumption as a beverage may be approved by the end of the year, but specific applications will still be required for use in food, and there are still other coffee by-products that are considered new and unknown.

One way to speed up future applications would be to involve other trade organisations. Even if they could not provide funding, for example, they could help in the research and show that it is a credible project, which could attract the rest of the industry.

Finding a new market for products that have otherwise been thrown away can have huge benefits, both for coffee producers and for the environment. So keep your fingers crossed for Cascara!