Mmm … fresh coffee.
Mmm … fresh coffee.

Disgusting truth about your coffee

IF YOUR coffee is made from pre-ground beans, there's a pretty good chance you're drinking ground-up cockroaches.

That's according to one scientist, who revealed that entomologists who work with cockroaches often develop an allergic reaction to the insects - and at the same time develop an allergic reaction to pre-ground coffee.

University of Montana biology professor Douglas Emlen first spilt the beans in a 2009 interview with NPR journalist Terri Gross about his research into dung beetles.

Dr Emlen described how as a student, he was driving across the country with his professor doing research in the late '80s "before there was a Starbucks on every corner" where you could get good coffee.

"He was fiercely addicted to caffeine," he said.

"And we'd have to drive way off the interstate to go find good coffee in that day. I mean, we'd go 45 minutes off our route to go find a place that had whole bean fresh ground coffee. I remember giving him a really hard time because we were wasting a lot of travel time trying to feed his addiction because he needed a coffee every couple of hours. And he finally explained to me he had to drink only whole bean fresh ground coffee - and it was because of cockroaches."

 

There may be a hidden ingredient in your coffee.
There may be a hidden ingredient in your coffee.

 

The professor, Dr Emlen said, "found out the hard way from teaching entomology year after year after year handling cockroaches, he got really badly allergic to them".

"He couldn't even touch cockroaches without getting an allergic reaction," he said.

"And because of that he couldn't drink pre-ground coffee. And it turned out when he looked into it that pre-ground, you know, your big bulk coffee that you buy in a tin, is all processed from these huge stock piles of coffee. These piles of coffee, they get infested with cockroaches and there's really nothing they can do to filter that out. So, it all gets ground up in the coffee."

As a "spin-off" from his cockroach allergy, the professor discovered he was allergic to pre-ground coffee. "You may not want to put that on the air," Dr Emlen said. Gross said, "That's really upsetting."

Dr Emlen pointed out that US Food and Drug Administration defect standards allow coffee beans to contain up to 10 per cent "insect filth and insects".

"Technically speaking, if I'm not mistaken, the FDA regulates the per cent by dry weight of food stuffs like this that can be ground insect parts and make sure that it doesn't end up being too much of the total," he said.

"And it's small, it's a trace amount. Chocolate incidentally is the other one that - if you think of these huge piles of beans, of cocoa beans, all piled up that then gets ground up into something we all love and eat."

A Food Standards Australia spokeswoman said there was no similar level set in the Food Standards Code "for these specific contaminants in coffee beans".

"It's important to note that under state and territory food laws, food can only be sold in Australia and New Zealand if it is safe and suitable," she said.

 

frank.chung@news.com.au


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