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Could decaf coffee cause cancer? Experts weigh in

·1 min

For people avoiding caffeine, decaf coffee seems like a harmless option. But some health advocacy groups are petitioning the US Food and Drug Administration to ban a key chemical involved in the decaffeination process due to cancer concerns. That chemical is methylene chloride, a colorless liquid used in certain industrial processes. Methylene chloride is a known carcinogen and has been associated with other health harms such as liver toxicity and neurological effects. The Environmental Defense Fund and other groups argue that the FDA has disregarded a 66-year-old addition to the federal act that requires the banning of food additives proven to cause cancer. The FDA has set a limit for methylene chloride residues in decaffeinated coffee and any product exceeding this limit is not permitted for sale or consumption. The FDA’s decision on the use of methylene chloride for coffee is considered outdated. Some companies have adopted alternative decaffeination methods. The Clean Label Project has detected methylene chloride in several coffee brands. The decision on whether to ban methylene chloride could take years. In the meantime, consumers are advised to look for decaf coffee with labels such as solvent-free, Swiss Water processed, or certified organic. There are also caffeine-free substitutes available.