High lead content in coffee?

Coor possesses leading-edge competence in a raft of services segments. In this article, we meet Johan Klausen, an expert in restaurant services, who offers his thoughts on recent concerns about increased lead content in coffee and tea in the workplace.

High lead content in coffee?

In January, the Karolinska medical research institute in Stockholm raised the alarm that it had detected increase lead content in hot water from workplace coffee machines that use whole beans. This attracted major media attention, which died down after a few days. But what actually happened—and should we be worried about it? Coor's expert on restaurant services, Johan Klausen, tells us what he thinks about the increased lead content:

Why was there so much attention on lead in coffee?

The lead content measured in hot water in coffee machines using whole beans that were tested by the Karolinska Institute were 20-99 micrograms per liter of water, which is higher than normal. The Institute decided to shut down these machines.

How much lead should coffee and tea contain?

Because the Swedish National Food Administration hasn't issued any clear recommendation, unfortunately, there's no one who really knows exactly what the desired maximum levels of lead in hot drinks are. This is currently a problem because pronouncements from the authorities are an important starting point. All the major coffee suppliers are now working on proposed limits, which the National Food Administration will then decide on.

Should we be worried about drinking coffee from machines that use whole beans?

Excessive lead can be hazardous, so you should obviously watch your daily intake. According to the WHO, the maximum daily intake of lead for an adult is 200-250 micrograms. But even if the National food administration hasn't set any limits yet, the regulator for this (the City of Stockholm Environmental Board) thinks the spot checks we took at the machines we are responsible for are acceptable. I should point out that all food and drink contains lead—not just coffee. Limits are set on the basis of estimates of the volume we consume. At present, the limit for drinking water is 10 micrograms per liter, which compares to a level of 50 micrograms per liter for juice, or 200 micrograms per liter for red wine.

What's the explanation for the high lead content at the machines at the Karolinska Institute?

There's still no-one that knows why lead content was high just there. After the initial alarm, all the country's major coffee suppliers have tested their machines. So far, they've only found increased levels in machines using whole beans from the vendor De Jong, and this problem has only been noted in two models, Arena and Virtu. On a few deliveries, Coor leases these machines from its supplier, Café Bar. Because not all machines of the relevant models are showing increased lead levels, the cause of the problem isn't completely certain. One possible reason is that brass components in the machines, combined with other factors, have caused the problem. As a precautionary measure, our supplier, Café Bar, has decided to exchange the brass components in the relevant machine.

Has Coor taken any measure after the alarm?

Yes, we've ordered our suppliers to conduct tests, and also done our own. The regulator (the City of Stockholm Environmental Board) regards the values we have reported as acceptable. We are monitoring developments closely and have close contact with experts in this field. We are maintaining a dialogue with each customer, and are trying to offer support and advice to the best of our ability. Even if the Environmental Board doesn't think that our suppliers need to take any further measures, we're trying to exert pressure on the National Food Administration to set clear guidelines for hot drinks.

Want to talk more about coffee machines?

Contact Johan Klausen.

Johan Klausen

Johan Klausen

Service Development, at Coor

+46 (0)10-559 52 79