Gluten in Fake CoffeeI was just perusing the Internet today reading some of the latest science news floating around. I came across this article entitled "Fingerprinting Fake Coffee" that got my attention at first because of the strange headline, but furthermore, upon reading, for its rather concerning content.
In a nutshell, here's what's going on:
Basically since gourmet coffee prices are hitting astronomical levels, the temptation or incentive for producers to "cheat" rises — and, in this case cheating means cutting the pure coffee (which is a naturally gluten-free product) down with other things that could surely jeopardize the Celiac-safe nature of coffee. Because certain (cheating) producers are using potentially unsafe (i.e., perhaps gluten-containing) dilution ingredients to cheat coffee consumers, the coffee may not be gluten-free after all. And, it's not like the producers are going to put anything on the ingredient list to indicate that they've jeopardized the purity of the coffee, since, after all, their entire strategy is based upon deception in hopes of increased profits.
The particular study cited above examined the widespread adulteration of Brazilian coffee, where tests showed that one brand of coffee contained 9% corn in it of all things! Sure, corn is gluten-free in it's pure form, and corn was the most common cutting-agent detected, but the following quote is what concerned me:
"Gulab Jham and colleagues point out that such adulteration of Brazilian coffee is among the most serious problems affecting coffee quality — with cereal grains, coffee twigs, and brown sugar sometimes mixed into the genuine article. Their research focuses on detecting corn, probably the most widely used adulterant."That "cereal grains" statement really got my attention. Basically, because this entire "fake coffee" thing is about increasing profit by substituting other cheaper ingredients for coffee, it seems only likely that if wheat or other gluten-containing ingredients are cheaper than corn or coffee-twigs or what have you, that's what the perpetrators will use next, and there goes the safety of one of my favorite beverages! (and, some people are surely allergic to corn out there that expect coffee to be corn-allergy safe as well)
It's bad enough that greed drives people to dilute products and mislead consumers, but it's a whole other story when such scams could seriously impact the health and safety of unsuspecting buyers and coffee drinkers. This is something neither I, nor anyone else with gluten-intolerance or other food allergies, wants to worry about. Worse, the article made me thing about how if this type of behavior could affect coffee, it also may exist with other food products, especially anywhere that there is more money to be made through diluting an otherwise pure product -- what's next?... perhaps cocoa or chocolate will be next, or tea, or....
Let's all hope this isn't a widespread practice in the food industry!