You are here

What About Acrylamide In Coffee?

In response to my post on saying yes or no to coffee, a reader named Jillian shared the following concern:

"As a coffee drinker, I would like any reason to blindly drink it without any concern, but one thing not addressed in your article is roasting. I have heard about carcinogenic effects of roasting/charring/grilling etc. Doesn't Starbucks have to put up warning signs in California because of their roasting process?"

Jillian brings up a valid point. Acrylamide is a possible carcinogen that is found in starchy foods that have been fried or baked at high temperatures. And yes, testing by federal agencies in multiple countries have confirmed that most types of coffee contain acrylamide.

Thus far, all published studies on acrylamide that I have reviewed have established links between acrylamide exposure and increased risk of cancer. But no one knows how much acrylamide intake is needed to "tip the scales." Put another way, how much acrylamide do you need to have in your body before you are certain to have health problems? And do factors like how antioxidant-rich your diet is, how much rest you get, how much fresh air you are exposed to, and how emotionally balanced you are affect how much acrylamide your body can handle?

One thing is for sure: all of us are exposed to some acrylamide as we go about our daily lives. Acrylamide is widely used to manufacture a variety of polymers, which are used as thickening and binding agents in sugar manufacturing, plastic products (including food packaging products), cosmetics, grout, cement, sewage and wastewater treatment, and even in some types of potting soil. Acrylamide is also heavily used in molecular biology labs, mainly as polyacrylamide when carrying out gel electrophoresis.

So in stepping back to look at the big picture, how much acrylamide are we getting from one or two cups of coffee daily?

Here is some data on acrylamide content of common foods (on an as-consumed basis, in micrograms of acrylamide in each kilogram of food), produced by the Canadian government in 2012:

Heinz prune baby food: 108
Gerber sweet potatoes baby food: 79

Tim Horton's plain donut: 23

Honey Nut Cheerios cereal: 79
Corn Flakes cereal: 58
Rice Crispies cereal: 58
Special K cereal: 229

Hershey creamy milk chocolate: 37
Sesame snaps: 96

Kraft Arrowroot cookies: 207
Honey Maid graham wafers: 261
Purity Ginger Snaps: 578
Oreo cookies: 23
Ritz crackers: 408

Dempster's multigrain bread (not toasted): 46
Dempster's multigrain bread (lightly toasted): 68
Dempster's multigrain bread (medium toasting): 92
Dempster's muligrain bread (dark toasting): 145
Raisin cinnamon bread: <10
Ryvita light rye crisp bread: 649

McDonald's french fries: 580
Wendy's french fries: 459
Burger King french fries: 360
Cavendish potato wedges (from frozen): 766
Cavendish shoestring fries (from frozen): 169

Unico medium pitted black olives: 494
Planters salted almonds: 657

McDonald's chicken nuggets: 37
Pizza hut pizza: 13
McCain traditional pizza (from frozen): <10

Frito Lay Restaurant Style Tostitos corn chips: 459
Frito Lay Classic potato chips: 309
Frito Lay Baked potato chips: 225
Miss Vickie's potato chips (kettle-style): 470
Terra sweet potato chips: 1833

McDonald's coffee: <10
Starbucks coffee: 12
Tim Horton's coffee: 12
Folgers classic roast ground coffee: <10
Nescafe instant rich cofffee: <10

Hopefully, these numbers provide some reassurance and perspective to those who are anxious about their acrylamide intake from coffee. This isn't to say that it's beneficial to drink coffee regularly; the point of my original article was to be sensible and balanced in our daily choices. If you missed it, you can read my thoughts on coffee intake here:

Coffee: To Drink, Or Not To Drink


Join more than 80,000 readers worldwide who receive Dr. Ben Kim's free newsletter

Receive simple suggestions to measurably improve your health and mobility, plus alerts on specials and giveaways at our catalogue

Please Rate This

Your rating: None Average: 4.6 (47 votes)
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Related Posts



I notice that your list doesn't have other natural foods and produce? I am going to assume that acrylamide doesn't happen in nature and/or happens in very negligible amounts. One more reason to eat natural, unprocessed, home-cooked foods! - if people need any more reasons.

To avoid this you would have to avoid cooking anything with starch in it. Notice how the same bread increased its acrylamide just by toasting it.

Also, making your own fries at home would give you similar numbers, depending on how "crispy" you like your fries.

Basically, only eat raw foods or raw foods that you have cooked at relatively low temperatures, if you want to completely avoid this.

I'm pretty sure there is another article somewhere in here that goes into detail about what temperatures are safer for cooking, can anyone help with the link?

Is this the link you were talking about?

So, what is an approx. safe microgram # to keep acrylamide under in our diet? Maybe I missed that. Because of a very limited diet that my daughter is on now (third time around) I am concerned about this.

Just a clarification: the solids were in parts per 2 kilogram measures. Was it 2 liters for the coffee measurements? I was awestruck by the tortilla chip numbers, then realized that 2 K of tortilla chips is A LOT! Thanks for your interesting and thoughtful analysis and your newsletter!