Coffee Is a Food!

by Jay Bagley

Did you know that coffee is a food? Yep, it is, and as such is regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) at the federal government level. It is also regulated in Colorado by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Food must be regulated in order to keep a safe supply chain and to keep us all safe from contracting food-borne illnesses. Rubicon Roasting is a registered Food Manufacturer in Colorado.

There are many factors to be aware of as a food manufacturer. Many of these have been described in the federal law that passed in 2011 called the “Food Safety Modernization Act” (FSMA). This law was designed to ensure that the food supply in the United States is safe, by shifting focus from responding to problems that have already occurred to preventing problems in the first place.

There are five (5) main areas this law addresses to help put the structure of food safety in place. They are:

Preventative Controls: This is all about ‘prevention-based controls’ across the food supply. While coffee roasting is a VERY low risk ‘food’ – there are things we do to prevent potential problems with the final product. For example, we do not want foreign matter in the bag of coffee beans we sell to you. One potential risk for coffee are stones in the bags of green beans. Rubicon Roasting has a ‘de- stoner’ machine which is used on every finished roast to remove any foreign matter from the roasted beans.

Inspection and Compliance: This means that the FDA can inspect our facility to ensure we are following proper protocol for maintaining food safety. We must be (and are) compliant with the regulations.

Imported Food Safety: We have several coffee importers we use here at Rubicon Roasting to purchase green beans from around the globe in coffee producing countries. These importers must verify that their foreign suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure safety, and FDA will be able to accredit qualified third-party auditors to certify that foreign food facilities are complying with U.S. food safety standards. We communicate with our importers to ensure they are compliant with this requirement.

Response: This means that the FDA can require a recall of a particular food if it is found to be causing a food-borne illness. This power of the FDA isn’t expected to be used much since all food producing companies perform voluntary recalls when necessary. Rubicon Roasting would voluntarily recall our beans if necessary rather than have the FDA force us to do so.

Enhanced Partnerships: This allows the federal government (FDA) to join with many state and local jurisdictions to provide training for all of us food manufacturers out here. For Rubicon Roasting, this helps us receive necessary training with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Whew! That’s a LOT of information – maybe even a bit boring for sure – but very important for us as food manufacturers to know. We here at Rubicon Roasting are always working hard to ensure our coffee is safe for your consumption.

Part of that process includes having a plan to ensure that. We have a HAZARD ANALYSIS AND CRITICAL CONTROL POINTS (HACCP) Plan. (oh no – another acronym). A HACCP plan details the prevention of hazards: Our plan allows us to follow all of the steps in manufacturing our coffee, from receiving green beans at the roastery through shipping roasted beans. It focuses on the hazards that are unique to coffee manufacturing and helps us to produce safe ‘food.’

OK, we’re done talking about the rules and regulations of coffee. With the COVID-19 times we’re in now it seems ALL of us are thinking about health. We know that COVID-19 has nothing to do with food production but it has ALL to do with health. So, we thought this sort of ‘down-time’ with losing our walk-in customers for a while would allow us to focus on food safety and share with you about the work we do to ensure our process will provide a safe and healthy bag of coffee to you.

Thanks for being part of the Rubicon Roasting Family and please continue to be well.

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