Mycotoxic myths

Wet processed green beans

Is your morning cup doing you more harm than good? Study after study has been done on the health benefits of coffee, but not everyone agrees that the benefits outweigh the consequences. Some claim that commercial coffee is contaminated with dangerous mycotoxins, which can cause people to perform badly and have a higher risk of disease.

What are Mycotoxins?

Mold, which is a type of fungus, is found almost everywhere in very small quantities. Mold can grow on edible crops and produce by-products called mycotoxins. There are hundreds of different mycotoxins with different functions. For example, they are used to create the antibiotic Penicillin. We’re mostly interested in the two that are commonly found in coffee: Aflatoxin B1 and Ochratoxin A. Aflatoxin B1 is a known carcinogen and is also commonly found in peanuts, corn, tree nuts, and dairy. Ochratoxin A has been associated with kidney disease, and it is also commonly found in grains.

Mycotoxin Prevention and Regulation

High moisture content, high humidity, and high temperatures can promote the growth of mold and related toxins. The standards of processing and storing green coffee can reduce the growth of mold by regulating these factors. Studies have also found that the roasting process can destroy up to 80% of mycotoxins. Additionally, the FDA has regulated mycotoxins in food and drinks for years, and the amount that they allow is far below the amount that’s considered dangerous. If you’re really worried, you can buy single origin coffee from regions at a higher elevation that has been wet processed (also know as washed). Higher elevation reduces the chance of a high moisture content, and wet processing discourages the growth of mold compared to dry processing.

Bottom Line

Mycotoxins are by-products of mold that can be found in many things, including coffee, grains, and tree nuts, but they are only harmful if they’re ingested in large amounts. FDA regulations only allow a very small amount of them in food and drinks, and most coffee is processed with the intention of reducing mold growth. If you want to reduce your exposure to mycotoxins in coffee, you can buy single origin coffee that has been wet processed. At the end of the day, the health benefits of coffee outweigh the negatives, so feel free to enjoy your morning or afternoon pick-me-up without worry.