Bay leaves [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Lorbeerblätter
English Bay leaves
French Feuilles de laurier
Spanish Hojas de laurel
Scientific Laurus nobilis
CN/HS number * 0910 40 90

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Bay leaves, which are up to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, are the dried, short-stemmed, leathery leaves of the evergreen sweet bay tree (Lauraceae family). They exude a strong odor, have a delicately bitter taste and are native to the Mediterranean.

The term spice is used to refer to plant parts which serve to improve the odor and flavor of foods. They contain essential oils and other ingredients which have a strong seasoning action.

Spices are processed, cleaned, graded and carefully packaged for overseas dispatch in the countries where they are cultivated. To preserve them for transport and storage, bay leaves are dried in shady places. In consumer countries, they are delivered to spice mills, where they are cleaned and graded again, ready for sale in unground or ground form.

Spices are classified by the plant parts used:

Fruit and seed spices (e.g. pepper, cardamom, aniseed)
Bud and flower spices (e.g. cloves)
Bark spices (e.g. cinnamon)
Root spices (ginger, turmeric)
Leaf spices (bay leaves)

Oil content: 0.5 – 3.0% essential oils [1], in particular cineole.

Quality / Duration of storage

A fresh, good quality product has an attractive green color, especially on the top of the leaf, and contains few fragments. Leaves which have been stored for too long are yellowish-brown, brittle and include fragments.

Provided that the recommended storage conditions are complied with, bay leaves may be kept for up to 24 months.

Intended use

Bay leaves are used as an additive in food preparation and in pharmaceutics. The spicy flavor is attributable to the content of essential oils, especially cineole. Bay leaves are used in particular to season meat (e.g. game), fish dishes, sauces, fish marinades and pickled vegetables.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Photo, bay leaves

Figure 1
Photo, bay leaves

Figure 2
Drawing, bay leaves

Figure 3

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Europe Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia
Africa Morocco
America USA

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Bay leaves are transported in, among other things, millboard cartons (23 kg) and jute fabric bales (50 – 66 kg).

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Symbol, general cargo

General cargo

Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Standard containers may be used, subject to compliance with lower limits for water content of goods, packaging and container flooring.

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since it may lead to mold growth.

As bay leaves are very fragile, they must be handled with appropriate care.

Stowage factor

6.00 m3/t (millboard cartons, 23 kg) [1]
5.10 – 6.65 m3/t (jute fabric bales, 50 – 66.5 kg) [14]
7.65 m3/t (bales from the Levant) [14]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets, wooden dunnage

Cargo securing

In order to ensure safe transport, the packages must be stowed and secured in the means of transport in such a manner that they cannot slip, shift and bump into one another during transport.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Bay leaves require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Favorable travel temperature range: 5 – 25°C [1]

Bay leaves should be transported in areas which exhibit the lowest temperatures during the voyage and are dry. In any event, storage beneath the weather deck or, in the case of shipping in containers, in the uppermost layer on deck, must be avoided as the deck or container is strongly heated by the intense tropical sun and, at temperatures of > 25°C, essential oils may be lost and there is a risk of self-heating. From 25°C a marked increase in odor may be observed.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Bay leaves require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 60 – 70% [1]
Water content 10 – 11% [1]
maximum 11% [15]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 65% [1]

Spices are hygroscopic goods (hygroscopicity), which interact with the moisture in the air. The risk of mold growth is naturally at its greatest in warm, damp air. Bay leaves have to be protected from relative humidities of > 75%, as mold growth otherwise sets in and the product may additionally become musty.

Bay leaves should be stowed away from goods which are sensitive to moisture/humidity or release moisture (e.g. copra).

In order to prevent condensation on the ship’s side or container walls from affecting the cargo, care should be taken to leave a clear gap between the cargo stack and the ship’s side or container wall.

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RF Ventilation

Bay leaves require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

If the product is at „shipping dryness“, it does not have to be ventilated during transport. However, if the water content does not meet these guidelines, the following ventilation measures should be implemented to eliminate the potential for dampness:

Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate: 6 changes/hour (airing)

In order to avoid formation of mold, the stowage space should be cool, dry and, most particularly, easy to ventilate.

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RF Biotic activity

Bay leaves display 3rd order biotic activity.

Bay leaves belong to the class of products in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed.

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RF Gases

No risk.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

An elevated moisture content and excessively high temperatures create a risk of self-heating.

Oil content: 0.5 – 3.0% essential oils [1], in particular cineole.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Bay leaves have a strong, pleasant odor and a bitter, spicy flavor.

When transporting spices, it is important to retain the content of essential oils to the greatest possible extent, since these substances, together with other constituents, such as fatty oils, tannins and bitter principles, determine the odor and flavor and thus quality of the spices.

The essential oils are readily volatilized and the seasoning action of the spices is consequently reduced. Volatilization of the essential oils is primarily determined by temperature. The higher is the ambient temperature, the more the essential oils are volatilized. In the case of bay leaves, a marked increase in odor may be noted at temperatures of over 25°C.

Due to the readily volatilized essential oils, spices should always be stowed separately from each other and away from foodstuffs which readily absorb foreign odors (e.g. coffee or tea).
Passive behavior Bay leaves are highly odor-sensitive.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Bay leaves do not cause contamination.
Passive behavior Bay leaves are sensitive to dust, dirt, fats and oils.

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RF Mechanical influences

Bay leaves are very fragile and mechanical influences, such as impacts, often result in considerable damage. Up to 15% of the product may end up as fragments, i.e. < ½ leaf. Bay leaves must not be overstowed with heavy goods.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

No risk.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Loss of volume, primarily due to breakage, is mainly caused by improper handling of the highly sensitive bay leaves.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Bay leaves may be infested by rats, mice and beetles (in particular drugstore beetles, hump spider beetles, Australian spider beetles and golden spider beetles) and moths (dried fruit and cacao moths) and mites.

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