Is Starbucks coffee carcinogenic?

Recently, the carcinogen “acrylamide” was detected in the products of major coffee companies in China. This has rocked China’s coffee industry, and consumers are becoming increasingly concerned. In this article, we’ll cover some basic information about acrylamide, what experts say about the issue, and how consumers should respond.

Starbucks Coffee building during daytime
This photo is not associated with the store in question. It’s a simple mockup.

What is acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a compound used as a pollutant flocculant in wastewater treatment plants and as a coating for paper cups and straws. This substance, which is produced in some foods, especially when baking or frying food at temperatures above 120 degrees, is known to increase dramatically at temperatures above 160 degrees.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified acrylamide as a probable human carcinogen (2A). Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in animal studies, but studies in humans are not yet available, so it is classified as a potential carcinogen.

Starbucks also detects acrylamide

Acrylamide has been detected in coffee from 20 major players in China, including Starbucks and Luixing. The Fujian Provincial Consumer Protection Commission and the Fuzhou Municipal Consumer Protection Commission recently jointly sampled the ingredients of 59 coffee products sold online and offline by 20 coffee shops in Fuzhou, and found acrylamide in all of them.

The investigation found 11.1 to 30.4 μg/kg of acrylamide in all coffee products, including well-known brands such as Starbucks, Luixing, and Coty Coffee. The product with the most acrylamide detected was an Americano black coffee sold by Moker Coffee.

China’s coffee industry reacts

This issue rocked the Chinese coffee industry. However, experts in China say there is no need to be overly concerned. They argued that acrylamide has carcinogenic potential, but that the risks are being exaggerated.

China’s Consumer Protection Bureau has recommended that the temperature of water for brewing coffee should not exceed 65 degrees. In addition, while China has no restrictions or bans on acrylamide in coffee yet, they have stated that it is not suitable to drink excessively.

Consumer response

Consumer concerns about this issue are growing. However, Xinhua explained that studies have shown that an adult would need to drink 12 kilograms of coffee per day to reach the carcinogenic dose, so there’s no need to be overly concerned, as it’s virtually impossible to drink that much every day. It’s also unclear whether these findings are specific to China.

Conclusion

Acrylamide is a potential carcinogen, but the risk is still unclear. While experts in China have stated that there is no need to be overly concerned about this issue, consumers still have concerns about it. Hopefully, research and regulation will address this issue in the future.

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