Antipattern: Access multi-value HTTP headers incorrectly in an API Proxy

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The HTTP headers are the name value pairs that allow the client applications and backend services to pass additional information about requests and responses respectively. Some simple examples are:

  • Authorization request header passes the user credentials to the server:
    Authorization: Basic YWxhZGRpbjpvcGVuc2VzYW1l
  • The Content-Type header indicates the type of the request/response content being sent:
    Content-Type: application/json

The HTTP Headers can have one or more values depending on the header field definitions. A multi-valued header will have comma separated values. Here are a few examples of headers that contain multiple values:

  • Cache-Control: no-cache, no-store, must-revalidate
  • Accept: text/html, application/xhtml+xml, application/xml;q=0.9, */*;q=0.8
  • X-Forwarded-For:,

Apigee allows the developers to access headers easily using flow variables in any of the policies or conditional flows. Here are the list of variables that can be used to access a specific request or response header in Apigee:

Flow variables:

  • message.header.header-name
  • request.header.header-name
  • response.header.header-name
  • message.header.header-name.N
  • request.header.header-name.N
  • response.header.header-name.N

Javascript objects:

  • context.proxyRequest.headers.header-name
  • context.targetRequest.headers.header-name
  • context.proxyResponse.headers.header-name
  • context.targetResponse.headers.header-name

Here's a sample AssignMessage policy showing how to read the value of a request header and store it into a variable:

<AssignMessage continueOnError="false" enabled="true" name="assign-message-default">


Accessing the values of HTTP headers in Apigee policies in a way that returns only the first value is incorrect and can cause issues if the specific HTTP header has more than one value.

The following sections contain examples of header access.

Example 1: Read a multi-valued Accept header using JavaScript code

Consider that the Accept header has multiple values as shown below:

Accept: text/html, application/xhtml+xml, application/xml

Here's the JavaScript code that reads the value from Accept header:

// Read the values from Accept header
var acceptHeaderValues = context.getVariable("request.header.Accept");

The above JavaScript code returns only the first value from the Accept header, such as text/html.

Example 2: Read a multi-valued Access-Control-Allow-Headers header in AssignMessage or RaiseFault policy

Consider that the Access-Control-Allow-Headers header has multiple values as shown below:

Access-Control-Allow-Headers: content-type, authorization

Here's the part of code from AssignMessage or RaiseFault policy setting the Access-Control-Allow-Headers header:

    <Header name="Access-Control-Allow-Headers">{request.header.Access-Control-Request-Headers}</Header>

The above code sets the Header Access-Control-Allow-Headers with only the first value from the request header Access-Control-Allow-Headers, in this example content-type.


  1. In both the examples above, notice that only the first value from multi-valued headers are returned. If these values are subsequently used by another policy in the API Proxy flow or by the backend service to perform some function or logic, then it could lead to an unexpected outcome or result.
  2. When request header values are accessed and passed onto the target server, API requests could be processed by the backend incorrectly and hence they may give incorrect results.
  3. If the client application is dependent on specific header values from the Apigee response, then it may also process incorrectly and give incorrect results.

Best Practice

  1. Reference the request.header.header_name.values.string form of the flow variable to read all the values of a specific header.

    Example: Sample fragment that could be used in RaiseFault or AssignMessage to read a multi-value header

        <Header name="Inbound-Headers">{request.header.Accept.values.string}</Header>
  2. If you want individual access to each of the distinct values, you can use the appropriate built-in flow variables: request.header.header_name.values.count, request.header.header_name.N, response.header.header_name.values.count, response.header.header_name.N.

    Then iterate to fetch all the values from a specific header in JavaScript or Java callout policies.

    Example: Sample JavaScript code to read a multi-value header

    for (var i = 1; i <=context.getVariable('request.header.Accept.values.count'); i++)
      print(context.getVariable('request.header.Accept.' + i));

    For example, application/xml;q=0.9, */*;q=0.8 will appear as two values with the above code. The first value is application/xml;q=0.9, and the second will be */*;q=0.8 .

    If the header values need to be split using semicolon as a delimiter, then you can use string.split(";") within the JavaScript callout to separate the distinct values.

  3. As an alternative, you can use the substring() function available within a message template on the flow variable request.header.header_name.values to read all the values of a specific header.

    Example: Use substring() within a message template to read a full multi-value header

       <Header name="Inbound-Headers">{substring(request.header.Accept.values,1,-1)}</Header>

Further reading