True Cellular Formulas Team - April 19, 2024

Your Morning Brew

Unveiling the Truth About Mycotoxins in Coffee


Coffee is a staple in the daily routine of millions, cherished for its ability to energize and comfort. However, beneath the rich aroma and invigorating taste, there could be a hidden risk: mycotoxins. These toxic compounds, produced by molds, can sneak into coffee beans, posing potential health risks.[1] Understanding the presence of mycotoxins in coffee and how to mitigate their impact is crucial for every health-conscious coffee lover.

What Are Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by certain types of mold fungi, such as Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Penicillium.[1] These molds can grow on a variety of different crops and foodstuffs, most commonly on grains, nuts, and, as research has increasingly shown, coffee beans. Mycotoxins are resilient; they can survive food processing and have been found in both green and roasted coffee beans.

Two of the most concerning mycotoxins found in coffee are ochratoxin A and aflatoxins. Ochratoxin A is particularly notorious for its presence in coffee and its potential health risks, which include kidney damage and carcinogenic effects.[2] These mycotoxins can contaminate coffee through various stages, from pre-harvest to storage, depending on environmental conditions and the methods used during processing.[1]

Health Risks Associated with Mycotoxins

The health implications of mycotoxins are significant and multifaceted. Exposure to these toxins can lead to a range of adverse health outcomes:[2-5]

  • Immune System Deficiencies: Mycotoxins can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to diseases.
  • Neurological Issues: Symptoms such as brain fog and headaches have been reported, affecting cognitive and neurological functions.
  • Increased Cancer Risks: Certain mycotoxins, like aflatoxins, are known to be carcinogenic, particularly increasing the risk of liver cancer.
  • Chronic Pain: Joint and muscle pain can also be exacerbated by mycotoxin exposure.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns can result from mycotoxin effects on the body.

Research linking mycotoxin exposure to these health issues emphasizes the importance of understanding and managing these risks, especially for regular coffee drinkers.

Prevalence of Mycotoxins in Coffee

The presence of mycotoxins in coffee is more common than many might think. Studies indicate that a significant percentage of coffee beans, both green and roasted, can be contaminated with mycotoxins. Researchers have found that anywhere from 30% to 70% of coffee beans tested worldwide contain these toxic compounds, particularly ochratoxin A.[6] This widespread occurrence can be attributed to factors such as the geographic origin of the beans, the climate conditions during growing and harvesting, and the methods used for processing and storing the beans.

The Roasting Process and Mycotoxins

It's a common misconception that the roasting process can eliminate all mycotoxins from coffee beans. While roasting can significantly reduce the levels of certain mycotoxins, it does not completely remove them. For example, studies show that up to one-third of roasted coffee can still contain detectable levels of ochratoxin A.[7] The effectiveness of roasting in reducing mycotoxin levels largely depends on the roasting temperature and duration. However, some mycotoxins are notably resistant and can survive even under high temperatures used in coffee roasting.

This part of the discussion highlights the importance of not only relying on roasting to ensure the safety of coffee but also implementing rigorous testing and selection processes to minimize mycotoxin risks from the outset.

Mitigating the Risks

To address the issue of mycotoxin contamination, the coffee industry has adopted several practices aimed at minimizing the presence of these toxins. Effective strategies include:

  • Selecting High-Quality Beans: By choosing beans from regions and farms known for high-quality production practices, manufacturers can reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination.
  • Improving Drying and Storage Techniques: Proper drying and storage of coffee beans are critical to prevent mold growth. Beans need to be dried to the appropriate moisture level and stored in conditions that discourage mold development.[8]
  • Rigorous Testing: Many reputable coffee brands now routinely test their beans for mycotoxins, ensuring that their products meet safety standards before reaching consumers.

For coffee lovers, knowing the source of their coffee and choosing brands that prioritize safety can make a significant difference. Look for transparency in sourcing and testing practices when selecting your coffee to ensure you are consuming a product that is as safe as possible.

Mycotoxin-Free Alternatives

In response to consumer concerns about mycotoxins, some companies have begun offering mycotoxin-free coffee. These products undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are free from these harmful compounds. Brands that offer mycotoxin-free products typically use advanced testing methods to screen for toxins and often highlight this aspect as a key selling point.

These mycotoxin-free options provide peace of mind for consumers, particularly those with health conditions that make them more susceptible to the effects of mycotoxins. By opting for these products, coffee drinkers can enjoy their daily brew without the worry of potential health risks associated with mycotoxins.

As the awareness of mycotoxins in coffee grows, so does the availability of safer, thoroughly tested products. Choosing these alternatives not only supports your health but also encourages more coffee brands to adopt stringent safety measures.


The issue of mycotoxin contamination in coffee is a significant concern, highlighted by research showing that these toxins are more prevalent than many might expect. While the roasting process can reduce mycotoxin levels, it does not eliminate them completely. Understanding these risks and the ways in which they can be mitigated is crucial for anyone looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle while enjoying their daily cup of coffee. By opting for brands that prioritize rigorous testing and mycotoxin management, consumers can help ensure their coffee is both safe and enjoyable. Awareness and education are key in fostering a market that values health and safety as much as flavor and aroma.

  1. Tola, M., Kebede, B., & Yildiz, F. (2016). Occurrence, importance and control of mycotoxins: A review. Cogent Food & Agriculture, 2(1).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, November 14). Basic facts about mold and Dampness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  3. Pierron, Alix et al. “Impact of mycotoxin on immune response and consequences for pig health.” Animal nutrition (Zhongguo xu mu shou yi xue hui) vol. 2,2 (2016): 63-68. doi:10.1016/j.aninu.2016.03.001
  4. Campbell AW, Weinstock LB. Molds, Mycotoxins, the Brain, the Gut and Misconceptions. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2022; 28: 8–12.
  5. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Mycotoxins. World Health Organization. 
  6. Viegas, Carla et al. “Microbial Contamination in the Coffee Industry: An Occupational Menace besides a Food Safety Concern?.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 19,20 13488. 18 Oct. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijerph192013488
  7. van der Stegen, G H et al. “Effect of roasting conditions on reduction of ochratoxin a in coffee.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 49,10 (2001): 4713-5. doi:10.1021/jf0105586
  8. Błaszkiewicz, Justyna et al. “Effect of green and roasted coffee storage conditions on selected characteristic quality parameters.” Scientific reports vol. 13,1 6447. 20 Apr. 2023, doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33609-x

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