MILAN – Following the article “Hong Kong Consumer Council raises alarm: acrylamide was found in 47 commercial coffees” published in Tuesday’s edition, we have received the following clarification from the European Coffee Federation (ECF), the top representative organisation of the coffee industry in the EU.
Since the publication of Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 of 20 November 2017 establishing mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food, ECF and its Members have worked intensely to meet the benchmark levels and reduce values as low as is reasonably achievable (ALARA principle).
Our members apply controls, based on HACCP principles, to ensure that their coffee is guaranteed to be safe. The management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards of course includes contaminant levels.
Acrylamide is therefore addressed via this control, and at levels found is determined to be of no food safety risk.
As you are aware, Acrylamide is formed during the manufacturing of roasted and soluble coffee, mainly by Maillard reaction starting from reducing sugars and asparagine.
Despite efforts, the toolbox for roasted and soluble coffee does have limited mitigation measures due to the formation of acrylamide being inextricably linked to manufacturing processes.
The peak of acrylamide formation is reached early in the roasting process, and as it progresses levels decrease.
It is however important to bear in mind that darker roasting, which therefore typically lowers acrylamide levels, does negatively impact on furan and methylfuran levels.
A balance in terms of minimizing both contaminant levels must therefore be achieved. Moreover, in soluble coffee additional acrylamide formation is to be expected, due to the extraction temperature during this additional processing step.
However, a holistic view also considering the protective antioxidant components in coffee (e.g. chlorogenic acids) is necessary. Coffee is part of a healthy diet and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has assigned coffee to Group 3 ‘agent not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans’.