Brazil’s coffee industry is engaged in a tireless battle against rogue roasters who cut corners and costs by bulking up their products with corn, soy or even wood, the ABIC industry association says.
The tainted products have not been known to cause health problems in the consumers who drink them, usually unknowingly, but the industry takes a hard line against the fraudulent practice to protect the beverage’s image.
The joint initiative known as the Seal of Purity is run by the Brazilian Coffee Industry Association (ABIC) and involves laboratory testing of coffee picked at random from supermarket shelves. The seal was launched 20 years ago.
“The most common thing is to find wood from the (coffee) tree and shells from the beans but you can also find corn or caramel, which is much cheaper than coffee,” said Almir Jose da Silva, ABIC’s chairman.
Most of Brazil’s exported coffee is shipped as raw beans, confining this problem to products sold at home. Silva said the problem was still small given the huge amount of coffee sold in Brazil, the world’s No. 1 coffee grower and No. 2 consumer.
Brazilian law prohibits the sale of coffee with more than 1 percent impurities, and ABIC has taken upon itself to weed out producers who flout the rules. It reports sub-standard products to the public prosecutor and health authorities.
“Our forecast for 2010 is to carry out more than 3,000 collections” to test, Silva said. ABIC members whose coffee is consistently free of impurities are allowed to use the Seal of Purity label on their packaging.