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Cold Brew Challenge Study

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Study Purpose: Evaluate the safety of cold brew coffee in retail/food service settings and inform the creation of possible food safety requirements in the FDA’s Food Code.

Supported by: NCA Member contributions to Science Leadership Council.

Conducted by: Eurofins® Microbiology Laboratories.

Focus: Determine if pathogen growth or toxin formation can occur in retail cold brew coffee.

Relevance: Aid health departments in inspecting and regulating cold brew safety -- and industry with compliance.

TCS-food Designation: Examined if cold brew needs temperature control for safety.

Cold Brew Types Tested:

  • Full-immersion method for concentrate.
  • Bag-in-box (BIB) - UHT processed, commercially sterile for single-strength.

Pathogens Tested: E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Staph, C. botulinum, B. cereus.

Conditions: Stored at 85°F/29°C, for up to 11 days, with/without oxygen.

Results: No pathogen growth or toxin formation.

Implication: Eurofins®’ research suggests black cold brew could be considered a non-TCS food when brewed, held, or dispensed at retail. Please note: Local health departments may still consider retail cold brew a TCS food since there is currently no standard for cold brew in the Food Code. Please check all local regulations to ensure compliance. In this case, a retailer may request a variance and submit challenge study results to the health inspector. See our Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers for more information on variances.

Caveats: Results specific to tested conditions; additives or deviations may require professional guidance and completing new challenge studies.

For Retailers: The study is a valuable reference for compliance discussions with health inspectors.

Resources Available: NCA offers guides, checklists, and educational materials for cold brew safety and compliance. Visit the NCA Cold Brew Resource Center.

The study confirms the safety of black cold brew coffee under common conditions, suggesting it doesn't require temperature control for safety. Retailers should note the study's limitations and consult professionals for unique circumstances (such as adding nutritive additives like cream or sugar, which would require completing new challenge studies). The results serve as a valuable resource for ensuring compliance with food safety standards.

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