Food Safety

The ICO promotes good food safety practices throughout the coffee chain, addressing both the concerns of producing countries in building capacity, and consumer health concerns of regulatory bodies.

Phytosanitary issues are regularly reviewed by the Private Sector Consultative Board and the Council which receive reports on food safety issues and legislative developments, ranging from maximum residue levels of pesticides permitted by importing countries to acrylamide and OTA.

Improving quality is crucial to sustaining consumption in the long term and adding value to coffee. The Coffee Quality-Improvement Programme (CQP) contributes to improved food safety, establishing certain basic quality standards to prevent the presence of contaminants in shipments and make it more attractive to both retailers and consumers.

Under the CQP moisture content should not fall below 8% or exceed 12.5% and there should be no more than 86 or 150 defects per 300g sample of Arabica and Robusta coffee respectively. The ICO also discourages trading coffee with less than equivalent of 95% green coffee as the basic raw material.

Managing pests and diseases: Action against pests and diseases is important to protect the economies of producing countries and the livelihoods of farming populations and to protect quality.

ICO/CFC sponsored projects promote sustainable development by introducing effective integrated pest management systems and reducing the use of chemical pest control methods. The coffee berry borer, coffee wilt disease, white stem borer and leaf rust are examples of pests and diseases tackled through projects.

The ICO also sponsors projects to enhance processing practices to add value and decrease contamination. A US$6 million project to reduce mould formation in coffee resulted in a website ‘Reducing OTA in Coffee’ ( and a CD-Rom training tool ‘Good hygiene Practices along the coffee chain’ published in English, French and Spanish.

Cooperation with international bodies: The ICO is an accredited observer to Codex Alimentarius and has actively contributed to the development of a code of conduct for the prevention of OTA by this body.

The ICO also cooperates with the Association for Science and Information on Coffee which holds international conferences at which scientists present the latest findings on scientific research and technological developments in the area of coffee.

Workshops and seminars: The ICO regularly organizes seminars and workshops to inform Members of the latest developments in fields such as Genetically Modified Coffee and the Coffee Berry Borer. Expert speakers present the latest findings and the presentations are disseminated to the world coffee sector through the ICO website.