Other compounds in coffee

Other compounds found in coffee are formed during the storage and processing of coffee beans. These include compounds such as acrylamide and furan, which arise through the heat processing of foods, and Ochratoxin A, the source of which is mould that can develop on badly stored green (unroasted) coffee beans. The coffee manufacturers closely monitor levels of acrylamide and furan in the final coffee product and have introduced measures to avoid the development of Ochratoxin A.

Many studies have considered the health aspects of the compounds formed during processing, and this information is summarised below. Further detailed information is available using the links provided, as well as the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section.

Acrylamide is a compound formed during cooking, particularly at high temperatures such as during roasting, baking and frying, including coffee. Prolonged exposure to acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals but no direct evidence exists of a link between acrylamide and cancer in humans20.

EFSA annually assesses levels of acrylamide in foods across EU member states, and in June 2015 published a comprehensive Scientific Opinion on Acrylamide in Food21.

The coffee industry regularly monitors acrylamide levels and has undertaken research into processes that could help lower levels without affecting quality and acceptability of the coffee for more than a decade.

Furan is a compound formed when certain foods are heated to high temperatures and can be found in many foods, including coffee. It evaporates readily and evidence suggests that the levels in coffee decline from the time of roasting to drinking. It is estimated that, approximately, only 10% of the furan initially present in roast coffee beans is found in the finished beverage22,23,24.

Concerns have arisen from studies in animals that suggest a link between furan intake and the development of some cancers, notably liver cancer25. The levels of furan in coffee are monitored throughout Europe and reports are published regularly by the European Food Safety Authority26.

Ochratoxin A
Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin formed from mould that can develop on badly stored coffee beans. OTA can be found in a number of different foods including cereals and dried vine fruits when they are stored under humid conditions.

Today, Good Agricultural Practice in coffee producing countries has enabled effective controls to be put in place at source, ensuring correct storage of coffee beans to avoid the development of Ochratoxin A. EU regulations also control levels of OTA in coffee. Thus eliminating the concerns associated with its presence in coffee beans and finished coffee.

For further information from European Coffee Federation ‘Code of Practice for the Prevention of Mould Formation’, click here.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
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