Liquorice: a plant used in many food products
Glycyrrhizin is the most abundant compound in liquorice root. Because of its considerable sweetening power, it is used in a wide variety of products including sweets, chewing gum, snacks, baked goods, and ice creams and sorbets. It is also found in soft drinks and syrups, alcoholic drinks made from liquorice extracts (pastis, ouzo, raki, etc.), non-alcoholic pastis, beer, and food supplements.
Several serious cases of poisoning
The study carried out by the Agency in conjunction with poison control centres over the 2012-2021 period showed that 64 people were poisoned following the consumption of liquorice-based beverages or foods. In 42% of cases, they developed serious and even life-threatening symptoms, such as high blood pressure, cardiac problems caused by too much potassium in the blood, etc. One death was reported in a person who already had severe liver damage.
Regularly eating large amounts of foods containing liquorice can cause severe symptoms, even in healthy individuals who have never had high blood pressure.
Moreover, some medicines enhance the effects of liquorice. This is the case with some diuretics causing a loss of potassium in urine, which is compounded by glycyrrhizin.
Consume occasionally and in moderation
It is difficult for consumers to know whether they are eating too much liquorice. The presence of liquorice is specified in the ingredients of foods and/or in a statement, but the maximum recommended daily amount is not always given.
In the current state of knowledge, the Agency recommends consuming no more than 10 mg of glycyrrhizin per day, taking care not to multiply the sources of intake through food, medication and tobacco products. Lastly, the continuous consumption of products containing liquorice should be avoided.