Health the key for UK coffee industry

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coffee, Caffeine

Promoting the potential health benefits of coffee remains one of
the foremost challenges ahead for manufacturers of the product in
2008, according to a newly formed industry trade association within
the UK.

Zoe Wheeldon, communications manager for the British Coffee Association (BCA) claims that consumers in the country are not being made aware and in some cases are misinformed over the impact of drinking the beverage. The comments come as the BCA, which represents the interests of processors in the region, merges with agricultural group the Coffee Trade Federation to better support the industry internationally. Wheeldon said that decision to combine the two bodies represented a desire for a single voice to campaign in the EU for the rights of the country's coffee industry, as well a promoting the beverage's health potential to consumers. To this end, Wheeldon claims that coffee has received a particularly bad rep in the press recently over its affects on health. "Coffee and health continues to be an area of importance with consumers confused by the myths and misinformation perpetuated by the media,"​ she stated. "We work with a wide range of independent healthcare professionals and the wealth of scientific research shows that moderate coffee consumption of four to five cups is perfectly safe for the general population and may confer health benefits".​ A growing number of studies appear to back these claims. In the last year, research from the French National Institute for Health suggested that caffeine present in the beverage acted as a psycho stimulant, which appears to reduce cognitive decline in women. Study author Karen Ritchie said further research into the claims would be required before caffeine can be properly linked to these potential benefits though. "While we have some ideas as to how this works biologically, we need to have a better understanding of how caffeine affects the brain before we can start promoting caffeine intake as a way to reduce cognitive decline,"​ she said. The study was not alone on suggesting coffee can in some cases can be beneficial to the consumer. Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker told BeverageDaily.com last year that when consumed in moderation, coffee can, in some cases, be beneficial to a healthy lifestyle. "Coffee has received some bad press in the past, though I'm not quite sure why,"​ she said. "Much like tea, it is derived from plants and has been linked with some important health benefits, particularly as a source of anti-oxidants." ​ However, there have been some concerns over the health impact of growing coffee consumption in the country, with coffee related illness nearly doubling over the last three years, albeit from a small level, according to some testing. Food intolerance tester Yorktest claims that in 2007 the number of allergic reactions to the proteins in coffee had risen by 3.3 per cent since 2003, from two per cent previously. The testing was conducted primarily on females, who made up 83 per cent of the 50,000 people studied, looking at consumers reactions to 113 different food types. Yorktest claims that those found to be susceptible were more at risk of developing reactions such as itchy skin, feeling depressed, migraine headaches, IBS, fatigue, and joint pains from drinking the product. A spokesperson for the company added that the increasing number of reactions to coffee were most likely due to growing consumption of the product in the UK, along with changing health and lifestyle choices of consumers. However, the industry has rejected these claims.

Related topics: Tea and Coffee, Markets

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