FDA to recognise coffee as a healthy food?
Image: Pexels/Toni Cuenca
Since releasing its 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government of the United States has acknowledged that coffee can be part of a healthy diet. There could be better news ahead: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether to officially recognise coffee as a “healthy” food.
We’ve known for years that coffee is associated with countless unique health benefits – but according to the National Coffee Association’s (NCA) own consumer research, less than half of the coffee drinkers we surveyed remember hearing about the health benefits of coffee within the past year. With a formal “healthy” designation for coffee, that could soon* change.
What does this mean for your coffee business?
In short: coffee companies may, for the first time, be able to market their plain, black coffee products as “healthy.” Imagine walking down the coffee aisle and seeing coffee package after coffee package proudly boasting – front-of-pack – its health food status. That would allow for much greater latitude when it comes to tightly regulated packaging and marketing requirements for food products — while potentially driving consumption among an increasingly health-conscious consumer base.
How did we get here?
This has been a multi-year industry-wide effort. To think, just a few years ago, we were combatting wildly inaccurate claims that coffee could cause cancer. Talk about a complete 180 — and due in no small part to NCA members big and small whose support has made it possible for us to set the record straight on coffee’s health benefits.
Many in our industry submitted formal comments in support of the healthy designation during last year’s public comment period, as did the NCA on behalf of our more than 250 members (you can read our submission here — it is full of fascinating research on coffee and health. A perfect “beach read” to consume with your favourite coffee beverage.)
Okay, but is coffee really healthy? Or is this just spin by “Big Coffee”?
Not spin, just facts. Regardless of how coffee is prepared, a robust body of evidence – including prospective studies of hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, the United Kingdom, other European countries, South Korea, and elsewhere – shows that coffee drinkers live longer than people who don’t drink coffee. And these studies are independent of industry support.
Drinking coffee has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reduced risk of diabetes, and a reduced risk of multiple types of cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends drinking coffee “regularly,” and the American Cancer Society has concluded that coffee reduces the risk of multiple cancers including liver cancer, endometrial cancer, cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, as well as basal cell skin cancer and melanoma.
Okay, so, this is all good news. But what can I do?
While the public comment period is closed, you can still have an impact. I was in Washington, D.C., late last month, visiting the Halls of Congress and sitting with federal regulators to make sure they are aware of the overwhelming scientific evidence on our side – and the implications that a “healthy” designation could have for coffee drinkers, coffee companies, their employees, and the farmers upon whom we all rely.
*“Soon” is a relative term with respect to Federal Government processes.
- William “Bill” Murray has been president and CEO of the National Coffee Association (NCA) since June 2014, having previously held leadership positions at the Public Relations Society of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. He takes his coffee black and is not the star of CADDYSHACK.