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Avoiding Ochratoxin A Contamination In Coffee (and other foods)

Please noteThe information on this website is NOT intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet. Please see our disclaimer if you have doubts.

Claudia Münch
Master of Science, Nutrition, obesity and eating disorders.

Ochratoxin A can be found in a variety of other foods than cereals and cereal products, such as coffee, chocolate, wine, beer, pulses, spices, dried fruits, grape juice, pig kidney, and other meat and meat products from non-ruminant animals exposed to mycotoxin-contaminated feed.

The European Food Safety Authority conducted the first risk assessment for OTA in 2006. In accordance with this assessment, the European Commission established maximum permissible levels of OTA for human consumption in many foodstuffs, including cereals, coffee, grapes, grapefruit, dried vine fruits, wine, spices, and licorice, in Regulation (EC) 1881/2006.

In recent years, additional findings of high levels of Ochratoxin A in food products for which no maximum levels were set at the EU level have raised concerns about the need to set new maximum levels for OTA in these foods.

EFSA published a revision of the OTA risk assessment in May 2020, taking into account new scientific evidence.

Based on this new risk assessment, the EU Commission issued Regulation (EU) 2022/1370, revising the maximum levels for OTA in Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 as follows:

  • establishing a maximum level for foods that have not yet been included and contribute to human OTA exposure;
  • establishing a level for non-alcoholic malt beverages and date syrup, pending the discovery of a link between malt and date OTA content;
  • lowering the levels that are already in certain foods (for example, bakery products, dried vine fruit, roasted coffee, and soluble coffee);
  • The existing provisions for ochratoxin A in specific spices have been expanded to include all spices.

It has been determined that additional monitoring for the presence of ochratoxin A in cheese and ham is necessary before setting maximum levels.

The new Regulation will enter into force on the 28th of August 2022 and it shall apply from 1 January 2023.



(A dangerous Mycotoxin…)


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We all know that sweet foods are our enemy when it comes to dieting. However, what if I told you that there is a type of sweet food that can actually be good for you? That’s right, I’m talking about coffee. Coffee is packed with antioxidants and has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and cancer.


But what about the other side of coffee? What about the potential dangers of coffee? One such danger is Ochratoxin A. So, should you avoid coffee entirely? No, but you should be aware of the potential risks associated with it. As always, consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.


What Is Ochratoxin A?

“Ochratoxin A” is a naturally occurring mycotoxin (a type of poisonous fungus) that can be found in a variety of food products, including coffee. This toxin can pose a serious health hazard to humans, as it has been linked to kidney damage and cancer.

While the levels of Ochratoxin A in coffee are generally low, there is still a risk associated with consuming this beverage. When choosing coffee, it is important to select a brand that takes measures to reduce the level of this toxin in its products.


Health Hazards Of Consuming Ochratoxin A

The European Commission requested that EFSA review the status of ochratoxin A (OTA) in food since their 2006 assessment. Multiple animal studies have linked OTA exposure to kidney tumors and nephrotoxicity, however, the consequences of OTA on human health are less understood. OTA has been linked to tumor development in rats. [1]

Research has connected OTA exposure to kidney disorders such as:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN)
  • Chronic interstitial nephropathy (CIN)

Both in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that OTA is genotoxic, however, it’s not obvious how exactly this happens. [2]


Gut Function and Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins have a profound impact on the gastrointestinal system after being ingested in contaminated food. In the digestive system, the intestinal barrier acts as a kind of protective filter, removing toxic mycotoxins before they can do any damage. However, it has been shown that certain mycotoxins have harmful effects on the digestive system. Mycotoxins, for instance, have been linked to changes in barrier function and nutritional absorption in the gut. The intestinal histomorphology may also be altered by mycotoxins as well.


Ochratoxin A (OTA) And Gut Microbiota

A research was conducted on the impact of Ochratoxin A on gut microbiota utilizing bioreactors, with each bioreactor representing a different section of the human gastrointestinal tract in an adult. Results showed that after 7 days of exposure to OTA, the gut microbiota degraded Ochratoxin A and the microbiota diversity changed exclusively in the descending colon. [3]

Evidence suggested that the OTA altered the microbiota balance and may have lowered immunity by reducing the population of beneficial germs like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.


Avoiding Ochratoxin A Contamination In Coffee

There is no sure way to prevent Ochratoxin A from contaminating coffee beans. However, proper storage and handling of coffee beans can help minimize the risk. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid Ochratoxin A poisoning. Here are a few tips, for coffee roasters and consumers:

  • Only buy coffee from reputable sources
  • Check for signs of mold on coffee beans before purchasing
  • Store coffee in a cool, dry place
  • Don’t forget to clean your coffee maker regularly!



All coffee supplied by sorze4 AS, including coffee beans and instant coffee, will be tested for Ochratoxin A and found to be within the new regulations’ limit values. Of course, this also applies to coffee delivered to our industrial customers.



1. Bui-Klimke, T. R., & Wu, F. (2015). Ochratoxin A and human health risk: A review of the evidence. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from,well%20as%20other%20renal%20diseases.

2. Outcome of a public consultation on the risk assessment of ochratoxin A in food. EFSA – Wiley Online Library . (2020, May 13). Retrieved October 4, 2022, from

3. Ouethrani, M., Van de Wiele, T., Verbeke, E., Bruneau, A., Carvalho, M., Rabot, S., et al. (2013). Metabolic fate of ochratoxin A as a coffee contaminant in a dynamic simulator of the human colon. Food Chem. 141, 3291–3300. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.05.157. Retrieved from


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