Yes, we test for Aflatoxin, yeast, Ochratoxin A among other forms of mold. Then we test for 165 different types of pesticide residue to make sure that the organic certification is accurate. We also test our coffee to ensure acrylamide levels are as low as possible. After testing for contaminants, we test for beneficial compounds like antioxidants to get to the highest levels we can.
Only 3% of coffees available worldwide today are organic, which means 97% are treated with pesticides and other chemicals. Some farmers use low-toxicity pesticides responsibly, but many do not, and it is quite difficult to monitor. Most developing countries that grow coffee have little to no regulations on the use of pesticides and chemicals on food products, and some actually use chemicals to treat coffee that have been banned in the US and Europe. Some state that the roasting process destroys pesticides, but research suggests that the chemicals actually penetrate the green bean, and that roasting fails to eradicate most of them, which can result in pesticide residue in coffee after it’s been brewed. Pesticide exposure has been linked to ADHD in kids, Alzheimer’s Disease, birth defects, breast cancer, other cancers, depression, fertility issues, immune system damage, low IQ in kids, ovarian cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, prostate cancer and respiratory problems.
Acrylamide is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the US Government. Acrylamide has also been shown to be a neurotoxin that can damage nervous system function. Acrylamide forms in starchy foods when heated to 250ºF + (the roasting process in coffee’s case). The level of Acrylamide present is directly related to the roasting temperature and the length of roasting time. The neurotoxic and probable cancer-causing aspects of Acrylamide are why the state of California mandates businesses (like coffee shops) provide customers with a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly exposing them to a chemical listed under Prop 65 (aka Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act).
Ochratoxin A (OTA) is classified as a possible carcinogen for humans by the US Government. It is categorized as a mycotoxin – mycotoxins are produced by
Aflatoxin B1 is known as the most potent natural carcinogen. It is classified as a mycotoxin and occurs mainly during the pre-harvesting stage of coffee bean farming, but also can occur in the storing and processing stages. A diet with exposure to aflatoxins has been linked to liver cancer in humans, and a study on peanut factory workers exposed to dust contaminated with aflatoxin b1 showed a link to respiratory cancer and total cancer compared to workers who weren’t exposed. There is no other natural product where the data linking it as a human carcinogen is so definitive.
Seven different Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been classified as probable carcinogens by the US Government (there are over 100 different chemicals that make up this group), which is why health experts have recommended people limiting the amount of charred foods they eat. These toxins are created in coffee when roasting at high temperatures for longer; ergo, dark roasts commonly have high levels of PAH. Acute exposure to PAHs have been linked to cancer. People who consume coffee prepared with methods that extract these different compounds more efficiently (like unfiltered coffee or espresso) should be aware of the possibility of higher PAH levels.
Yeast can be especially dangerous to those who have allergies or sensitive immune systems (by causing an imbalance in the gut microbiota). In this latter case, exposure to yeast leads to changes in the T-cells (the cells that help in immune response) and can cause inflammation. So, when there is yeast present in roasted coffee, it is usually due to poor handling practices at the roastery or through cross contamination with green (unroasted) coffee that contains yeast, which can be a cause for concern. Roasting plays an important role in the elimination of yeast from coffee; it is known as a ‘kill step’ process meaning that roasting will kill most pathogens found in contaminated green coffee. Cold brewing increases your risk of contamination because the infectious agents are not killed in a heating process.