By Joe DeRupo, NCA Director of External Relations & Communications
2016 was a year of uncertainty for the coffee industry, including new threats to basic business norms and protocols.
Here’s an overview of the key issues we faced over the past 12 months, some of the new benefits we’ve made available to members, and what you can expect in the year ahead.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The biggest change in the nation’s food safety system began taking effect in 2016. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has shifted the focus from fixing potential health concerns as they arise to preventing them. After five years of rulemaking, final regulations are beginning to take effect. Yet the same complexity that plagued the regulatory process continues as industry members work to comply with the regulations.
We’ve provided a FSMA training seminar (for Qualified Individual compliance), dedicated Webinar (available on-demand for members), and several Member Alerts to keep members informed of developments from the beginning of rulemaking five years ago to the first regulations taking effect today.
Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA)
Another change to business-as-usual came with passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA).
Among its provisions, the law closed the “consumptive demand” exception to the federal law. That exception suspended certain trade-law provisions on labor practices in instances where goods could not be secured from other sources in sufficient quantities to meet U.S. consumer demand.
Since relatively small yields come from within the U.S., coffee has always qualified for the exemption. Without the exemption in place, coffee has already been the subject of several investigative reports by Danwatch alleging abusive labor practices at origin. Members can learn more via Member Alerts on TFTEA’s potential impact on their business, the Danwatch report, and TFTEA enforcement, and via an NCA Webinar (available on demand for NCA members).
Another longstanding exemption for coffee fell away last year – though actual implementation is currently on hold.
Due to two overlapping regulations, the standard serving size for beverages (including coffee) was changed from six to 12 ounces, making the disclosure of coffee’s potassium content mandatory rather than voluntary.
Coffee does not include any other nutritive components – such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, etc. – above threshold levels triggering the need to affix a Nutritional Fact Panel (NFP) to packaging. However, the potassium level in a 12-ounce serving of coffee is over the threshold, although other listed components would all read “0.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that it will apply “discretionary enforcement,” which at present leaves coffee with no obligation to affix an NFP to packaging. However, this situation will require further monitoring given the rather ambiguous definition of “discretionary enforcement.”
We provide a dedicated regulatory page on our website with additional information.
Awareness has been heightened regarding the presence of naturally occurring diacetyl and its cousin compound 2,3-pentanedione (2,3-P) within the context of roastingand grinding operations.
The NCA has commissioned research to look more deeply into this matter, the results of which we expect in the second quarter of 2017. As our work continues, we kept members informed via a Member Alert and a detailed FAQ, and prepared a position statement to for the media.
Another natural byproduct of roasting continued to be at the heart of a major lawsuit in California, now in its fifth year running. Acrylamide – a compound you create yourself when you toast bread – is on the list of 1,000 chemicals cited by California’s “Proposition 65” law, which requires a prior consumer warning when any of them are present in a product.
Having lost on a first round of defenses, legal counsel for the industry began a second phase of the trial, litigating the case on new legal grounds. As the new year begins, coffee companies are facing another round of document production requests and depositions for the trial’s second phase.
Coffee and Health
There was some great news for coffee lovers in 2016.
The World Health Organization’s International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that scientific evidence does not support a link between coffee and cancer. With that ruling, IARC reversed the opinion in its 1991 monograph that resulted in rating coffee as “possibly cancer causing.” It’s the first time that IARC ever changed its rating for any food or beverage.
For many months before IARC’s scientific convocation, the NCA was actively laying the groundwork to support a favorable ruling, nominating a prominent scientist to attend the IARC convocation as an industry observer, and helping to spread the news, resulting in voluminous positive coverage.
One of the most celebrated natural components of coffee has been under special scrutiny at the FDA for several years. Coffee has not been singled out – in fact, energy drinks have dominated the discussions. However, the agency continues to examine caffeine from all sources in the American diet. Adding to the uncertainty is the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) published recommendations for caffeine limits of 200 milligrams per occasion and 400 milligrams per day.
Last year, a federal law was enacted requiring the labeling of Genetically Modified components (GMOs) in foods and beverages. The federal law supersedes state laws, including the more restrictive Vermont law that took effect in July, but nevertheless calls for disclosure on packaging. While there is currently no GMO coffee in the marketplace, manufacturers who use sweeteners, whiteners or other additives in coffee-based products, may need to label.
Most recently, claims of the decoding of the Arabica genome and the potential to create GMO coffee have raised the potential impact of the GMO labeling law going forward.
Again, the NCA has delivered information via Member Alerts and a dedicated resource page to guide the industry through the succession of events from passage of the Vermont law to versions of the federal bill to compliance under the final statute.
The NCA also launched a redesigned website in 2016. We also created a micrositedevoted exclusively to the health benefits of coffee for the consumer, Coffee and Me. On the main site we added NCA Connects, a centralized member engagement portal making it easier to discover new ways to get involved. There is also a Member Toolkit to show your NCA pride and distinguish yourself as a contributing member of the coffee industry – be sure to download your 2017 NCA Member digital sticker for your website!
Our webinar program is more active than ever, covering issues and topics currently impacting the industry, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (TFTEA), the Single-Cup Market, and Millennials and Coffee.
We’ve also launched a new Coffee Career Center devoted exclusively to coffee-related jobs of all kinds – ranging from baristas to the Boardroom. We also created a new Savings for Members discount buying program.
Within the NCA, we’ve brought on board a new Director of Member Services, Terri Bartlett. Terri brings many years of experience in membership development, marketing, and partnership development. The new position brings the NCA back to a full staff of eight professionals.
And, we’ve done the first complete analysis of the size, scope and influence of the industry in the NCA Economic Impact Report.
This information is invaluable to show legislators and regulators the sizable impact the coffee industry has on the U.S. economy and the well-being of their constituents, and helps gain their attention and support for important industry issues.
As we move into 2017, the NCA will continue to keep members informed and supported at all times, and collaborate with allied organizations across the industry so that we can all move forward together. We have some exciting new market research to share, and we’re excited for new partnerships and education opportunities that will benefit the entire industry.
Should you have any questions on these, or other industry issues, please don’t hesitate to contact Joe DeRupo at email@example.com. To learn more about the benefits of NCA membership, or partnering with the NCA as a sponsor, visit our website or contact Terri Bartlett, NCA Director Member Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-766-4007.