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The NCA Guide to Coffee & Prop. 65

Get the whole story about coffee, acrylamide, and health.


NCA Member Prop 65 FAQs

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Related Reading

Health Benefits of Coffee and a Proposed Warning Label - Harvard Health

Prop. 65 Percolates: What You Need to Know

Coffee’s complex chemistry not only creates a rich sensory profile, but offers unique potential health benefits as well. 


There are at least 300 natural compounds in a single bean, and about 1,000 created in the roasting process. These chemicals include caffeine (of course), antioxidants, and minerals.


Overwhelming research shows that regular coffee consumption is linked to a host of potential health benefits, from liver health to longevity. Together, the chemicals in coffee work together to create a delicious beverage that may also be good for your health.


However, aggressive Proposition 65 labeling legislation in California has called into question the safety of one of these chemicals, acrylamide. 


Historically, there has been a tendency in the regulatory and risk assessment world to legislate food, beverages, and ingredients based on the (sometimes-limited) science available on individual chemicals. But the case of Prop 65 and coffee has demonstrated that the science behind how a whole food or beverage product affects one’s health needs to also be considered.  There is overwhelming evidence to show and backed by leading world scientific authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), that coffee can help prevent cancer.


To help break down a very complex issue into key questions, we want to arm you with the facts so that you can make important decisions for your business and inform your consumers.

NCA Scientific White Paper: Acrylamide*

*Available to NCA members only 

Acrylamide FAQs

Is there a health concern?

Acrylamide occurs in food naturally during cooking. The FDA and other regulatory agencies do not recommend that people stop eating fried, roasted, or baked foods because of the natural presence of acrylamide, but instead recommend adopting an overall healthy eating plan.

What is acrylamide (AA)?

Acrylamide has been formed naturally during the “browning” process in foods and beverages, and so has been present since people began cooking with fire. 

Why is acrylamide in coffee? 

Acrylamide forms naturally when many foods are cooked – French fries, potato chips, crackers, bread, cereal, cooked asparagus and canned olives, to name a few. As with other foods, acrylamide is formed naturally when coffee is roasted; it is not “put in” coffee by manufacturers.

How much acrylamide is found in foods and beverages?  

The U.S. government has been collecting information on acrylamide in foods, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published an assessment of acrylamide in foods, including the concentrations outlined below. The FDA also notes that brewed coffee represents less than 1% of Americans’ intake of acrylamide from food.  

 Food  Average Acrylamide Concentration (µg/kg or ppb)*
Potato chips   597.5
French fries (restaurant)  404.1
French fries (oven-baked)  397.8
Canned black olives  242.8
Prune juice  214.4
Breakfast cereal  119.4
Postum (coffee substitute)  93
Brewed coffee  7.8

* µg/kg = micrograms per kilogram, which is also referred to as ppb or parts per billion.  For perspective, 1 ppb would be equivalent to about 3 seconds in a century or 3 ounces in 100,000 tons.

Is there a health concern? 

Acrylamide is found in minute quantities in roasted coffee. It has been shown to cause cancer in rodents exposed to very high levels of the compound in their drinking water. However, it is highly unlikely to have an effect on humans at the minute levels encountered naturally in cooked foods and beverages. In fact, studies link coffee consumption with a protective effect against certain cancers in humans. 

Related reading

Why You Can Probably Stop Freaking Out About Acrylamide in Your Coffee, The New Food Economy


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