NCA expresses its opposition to the banning of European Method decaf

NCA expresses its opposition to the banning of European Method decaf

March 09 - 2024

Coffee Geography Magazine

The National Coffee Association (NCA), based in Washington D.C. announces that banning the most common decaffeinated coffee - known as European Method decaf - would unjustifiably deny decaffeinated coffee drinkers access to a safe product associated with decreased risk of multiple cancers and other health benefits. NCA will detail the robust body of scientific evidence establishing the safety of European Method decaf in response to a petition filed by activist group the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In parallel to EDF's unfounded petition, activist group the Clean Label Project (CLP) is also lobbying the California State Assembly to ban European Method decaf (California Assembly Bill 2066). 

About 10% of American adults (or about 26 million people) drink decaffeinated coffee each day (National Coffee Data Trends 2023), and the majority of decaffeinated coffee has been made using the European Method for more than 50 years. 

Nearly all decaffeination is done outside the United States. U.S. International Trade Commission data show Germany is the top source of unroasted decaffeinated coffee beans; Italy and Switzerland are the second and third largest sources for imports of roasted decaffeinated beans.

european method decaf

European Method decaf is authorized as safe by the rigorous standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and other food safety authorities around the world.

Under U.S. food safety regulations, minute traces of a chemical used in the European Method (methylene chloride) are authorized as safe up to 10 parts per million (the equivalent of 10 drops of water in 10 gallons). FDA has said this level presents "essentially non-existent"1 risk. EDF's petition admits that in 17 coffee samples tested by CLP (the test results have not been independently verified), methylene chloride traces remained from 10% to 99.5% or more below FDA's safe level. 

Other decaffeination methods are much less widely available and more expensive than European Method decaf.

NCA President and CEO William "Bill" Murray

NCA President and CEO William "Bill" Murray

NCA President and CEO Bill Murray commented: "Banning European Method decaf would defy science and harm Americans' health. The overwhelming weight of independent scientific evidence shows that drinking European Method decaf is safe and furthermore that drinking European Method decaf, like all coffee, is associated with decreased risk of multiple cancers and other significant health benefits. Neither EDF nor CLP have presented anything resembling compelling evidence to the contrary, so FDA and the California legislature must reject these baseless proposed bans." 

One very large, well-designed study using UK Biobank data found that drinking 3 cups of any kind of coffee per day was associated with a 12% reduction in overall mortality, and the study specifies, "Similar associations were observed for instant, ground, and decaffeinated coffee…" (the majority of which is made using the European Method).

Numerous health authorities affirm the evidence that drinking coffee - including European-Method decaf - is associated with significant health benefits: 

• California's scientific agency has previously concluded: "A very large number of human studies, taken together, show inadequate evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer. Drinking coffee even appears to reduce the risk of liver cancer and endometrial cancer." 

• The American Cancer Society updated in 2020 its dietary guidelines for cancer prevention and concluded that coffee reduces the risk of skin, mouth, and throat cancer and likely reduces the risk of liver and endometrial cancer. 

• The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends consuming coffee "regularly." 

• The World Cancer Research Fund says "...there is strong evidence that coffee decreases the risk of liver and womb cancers. There's also some evidence that coffee decreases the risk of mouth, pharynx and larynx, and skin cancers." 

NCA is a trade association serving the U.S. coffee industry through education, advocacy, and connection. NCA members represent an estimated 90% of U.S. coffee commerce with small, medium, and large companies, including growers, importers, exporters, traders, brokers, freight forwarders, roasters, manufacturers, retailers, and allied companies.