A number of coffee roasters investigated by the US Centers for Disease Control have been found to have high levels of the chemical diacetyl and other potentially harmful compounds.
Scientists at the CDC have been studying levels of diacetyl in coffee facilities in the US for the last two years. Their findings suggest that at several facilities workers were exposed to levels of chemicals that were 4-5 times higher than recommended levels. Exposure to high levels of diacetyl has been associated with lung disease.
CDC has already released a number of reports from roasting facilities and is due to release more in the coming months. It is said to be aggregating data from 20 facilities and more than 450 workers.
CDC does not act as an enforcement agency but makes recommendations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA).
One of the reports from the CDC said: “We evaluated respiratory health and airborne exposures to alpha-diketones (diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, and 2,3-hexanedione), other volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide during coffee roasting, flavouring, grinding, and packaging.
“All four of the personal full-shift samples collected in the production area exceeded the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limit for diacetyl of 5 parts per billion. One of the four personal full-shift samples collected in the production area exceeded the NIOSH recommended exposure limit for 2,3-pentanedione of 9.3 parts per billion.
“In addition, air sampling during short-term tasks identified several tasks (flavouring roasted coffee beans and grinding flavoured and unflavoured coffee) with higher exposures to alpha-diketones, including diacetyl, than other tasks. Air concentrations of diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione increased over the course of the work shift.
“Some employees reported eye, nose, or sinus symptoms or wheezing or whistling in the chest. We recommend installing local exhaust ventilation near flavouring and grinding activities, implementing administrative controls such as modification of work practices, and training employees about workplace hazards. We also recommend instituting a medical monitoring programme.”
In a statement issued exclusively to Coffee & Cocoa International, the National Coffee Association (NCA) said it had advised its members about the reports and continued to update online resources.
Bill Murray, NCA President and CEO, said “The NCA has been working closely with scientists and industry experts to proactively understand and address this complex issue. The result of the research is under peer review for publication and will be released as soon as possible.
“The NCA is unable to comment on specific circumstances, but we recommend all coffee roasters take the necessary precautions, and seek professional consultation as needed to ensure worker safety.”
For more information see the July 2018 issue of Coffee & Cocoa International.