Acrylamide in coffee – a real threat or a storm in a glass of water?
Acrylamide in coffee, what’s going on? Some anxiety among coffee lovers has aroused very media recently information that cafes in California will have to inform customers that drinking coffee can lead to cancer. Where did this message come from, how serious is the threat and what to do in this situation?
The cause of anxiety became the acrylic acid amide, known more widely acrylamide or acrylamide. This compound is a neurotoxin, so it can damage the nervous system and also contribute to the occurrence of, among others, tumors of the gastrointestinal tract. Acrylamide is formed during thermal processing (in particular frying and baking – just a temperature of 120 degrees) of products containing starch. It is therefore not surprising that measures have been taken to minimize the amount of acrylamide in food. All the more so because according to research conducted since 2003 by the European Commission, the content of acrylamide in food offered by restaurants is much higher than the one we observe in home-made meals – therefore there is room for maneuver to reduce the risk of eating outside the home.
Where did acrylamide take in coffee?
According to estimates and conducted by the committee of experts on food additives cooperating with the WHO and FAO, the most acrylamide we consume eating chips, fries, various confectionery products, as well as some types of bread. Unfortunately coffee has also joined this group, which according to experts is responsible for from a dozen to even several dozen percent of the total intake of acrylamide. But where does the presence of generally considered healthy coffee among such unhealthy products as, corresponding to even half of the intake of acrylamide, chips? The more so because we mentioned earlier the minimum temperature of 120 degrees, and yet such temperatures do not occur when we prepare a coffee. We forget here, however, about the process of her smoking. It is then that the coffee beans spend their time at a temperature of about 200 degrees Celsius, and then this unwanted ingredient, such as acrylamide, may appear.
Why California and why now?
The California state legislation is quite specific and the inhabitants of that region have already become accustomed to the information warning about the risks associated with the majority of food intake. Even the smallest risk of carcinogenity of a product translates quite quickly into the necessity of perceiving consumers forced by local law. It was no different in the case of coffee, although it must be admitted that the discussion on this subject took quite a long time. Already in 2010, the California Council for Research on Toxic Substances informed companies offering coffee in the state that the products they sell contain too much acrylamide – the list also includes Starbucks, which is well known all over the world. The companies argued that the level of risk is very small and does not affect the decisions made by customers, but they failed to convince the court, and thus the judge’s decision Elihu Berlego ordered in 2018 to warn local coffee lovers against the risk of cancer.
How much is acrylamide actually in coffee and other products?
We have already informed about the percentage of acrylamide accepted by the average consumer, but each of us is different – how much exactly can acrylamide be in coffee and other products, and what dose is considered potentially dangerous? According to the analysis „Acrylamide content in food current recommendations of the European Union” and based on animal studies it was estimated that the level at which no neurotoxicity was found for acrylamide was 0.2 to 10 mg / kg body weight per day. An adult weighing 80 kg means that acrylamide can be considered safe if it does not exceed 16 to 800 mg per day.
Meanwhile, recorders on the content of acrylamide (potato chips and French fries) in one kilogram can contain up to two milligrams of this ingredient, and therefore a dose of 8 to 400 kg of French fries and chips per day can be considered safe. These numbers, as you can see, are quite abstract, but how does coffee look like on their background?
In medium roasted coffee, the acrylamide content range is from 0.061 mg to 0.699 mg – it is difficult to recognize the threat of carcinogenicity from drinking coffee as truly alarming and having a real impact on health.
In conclusion – if someone was afraid that in the light of recent research will have to say goodbye to his favorite drink – I should be a bit calmer. As always, the key is moderation – if somebody based their diet mainly on coffee, it probably will not be the healthiest idea. However, if coffee is our daily companion for the day, it looks like it can still stay, and news from California is much less worrying than some media are trying to portray.
1) Washington Post