The consumer watchdog in Hong Kong found that more than 95% of coffee samples tested contained cancer-causing substances.
The Consumer Council tested 49 types of coffee products and found that 47 contained carcinogenic genotoxic acrylamide. Acrylamide is a genotoxic carcinogen and neurotoxin that can cause cancer when the subject is repeatedly exposed to high levels.
The products tested included coffee beans, capsules, powders, and instant coffee. Instant coffee contains the highest levels, ranging from 160 to 790 micrograms per kilogram, compared to other types, which were in the range of 53 and 240 micrograms per kilogram.
Taster’s Choice by Nestle, Original Soluble Coffee had the highest amount of acrylamide, at 790 micrograms per kilogram. Other instant coffee brands with high levels of the substance included the following; Tesco Gold Rich & Smooth Freeze Dried, M&S Food Italian Style, Meadows Gold Roast Freeze Dried, and Select Instant Coffee Classic.
The two products that did not contain the substance are OPAL Coffee’s Toraja Drip Coffee and The Coffee Academics’ TCA House Blend, Specialty Coffee Capsules.
As a response to this study, Nestle claimed that the detected levels of acrylamide fall in the European benchmark safely levels, of a maximum of 400 micrograms per kilogram for roasted coffee and 850 micrograms per kilogram for instant.
Chairwoman of the Council’s research and testing committee, Nora Tam Fung-yee, stated that while the acrylamide content in coffee is lower than in fried foods, “consumers should pay attention to the amount and frequency of consumption when drinking coffee to reduce the intake of acrylamide”. Tam also urged manufacturers to review raw ingredients and production processes to minimise the formation of this substance during coffee-producing stages.
However, the Council’s chief executive, Gilly Wong Fung-han, is adamant that excessive consumption of the coffee products in this study can negatively affect health over the long term, despite a previous Center for Food Safety study concluding that there is a minimal health risk from acrylamide exposure.