Before coffee makes its way to your cup, there are a few opportunities for mold to cling to it. If the conditions are warm and damp enough, mold can form directly on the coffee bean crop or emerge during storage and transportation. Most mycotoxins are chemically stable and survive food processing, which is why proper handling of coffee is key. If left unchecked, mold and fungi can form mycotoxins—toxic chemical products that are invisible to the naked eye.
The most common mycotoxin found in coffee is ochratoxin A (OA). A sampling of 60 coffees from Brazil found ochratoxin A in 20 of them (33.3%), while other studies have identified the mycotoxin in nearly half of the beans analyzed.
Seeing as it’s so common, ochratoxin A is considered “one of the most important mycotoxins of worldwide concern for human health.” As the World Health Organization explains, “Large doses of aflatoxins can lead to acute poisoning (aflatoxicosis) and can be life-threatening, usually through damage to the liver.” Research has also linked high amounts of ochratoxin A exposure to chronic kidney disease. It also seems to negatively affect immune health in some animals, though more research on humans is needed.
Before you chuck out all the beans in your house and switch over to tea, know that the amount of ochratoxin A typically found in coffee is unlikely to be enough to carry any meaningful health risk. Even if you drink upwards of six cups a day, it should still fall below the EU Committee for Food’s safety limit of 3 mg/kg of OA from coffee day. The roasting process can further reduce the amount of ochratoxin A in contaminated beans.
Still, we couldn’t blame you if you don’t love the idea of sipping moldy coffee. That’s why mindbodygreen set out to create clean coffee+—a new type of morning brew that has been tested for mold, mycotoxins, and more.