Gov’t to Inspect Coffee Machines After Lead Scare

Sugar, sweetener or lead? (Hamodia)

The latest health “scandal” to hit Israel involves a concern that commercial coffee machines may be providing Israelis with more than just a shot of caffeine – and that the cup of joe they imbibe may include an unhealthy dose of lead. In a statement, the Health Ministry said that excess exposure to lead could cause a significant number of health problems, including kidney problems, high blood pressure, and more.

A report on Channel Two Tuesday raised concerns that several models of commercial coffee makers, made in Italy and in Israel, were serving up lead in each cup of espresso and lattés popular with Israelis. The Health Ministry said that consumption of more than 10 micrograms of lead per liter of beverage could lead to health problems. About half the coffee makers checked by the Ministry were acceptable, dishing out less than 20 micrograms of lead per liter.

The rest produced beverages with between 20 and 150 micrograms of lead per liter, which is unacceptable and illegal for use. Machines that produced between 10 and 20 micrograms needed to be fixed, the Ministry said. The Ministry has already produced a list of the unacceptable machines, and plans to begin handing down orders to force coffee shops to stop using them, it said in a statement.

So far, the Ministry said, it had only determined that there were problems in commercial coffee machines. It so far has not found any problems in the home coffee machines, such as those made by Nespresso, that are popular with many Israelis, nor have any issues yet been found with metallic water kettles (kumkumim).

The Economy Ministry is investigating the matter as well, and it intends to examine the use of the machines in commercial establishments, factories, company lunchrooms and other places where the machines are likely to be used. It will take about a month of intensive work to identify the problematic machines; according to officials, the same model of machine used in different places could yield varying degrees of lead, so there was no common denominator on the problematic machines, such as manufacturer or country of origin. According to the Health Ministry, the problem is definitely in the machines and not in the water they used, as regular testing of tap water indicated acceptable levels of lead in drinking water.

While no statistics were immediately available on coffee consumption on Wednesday, polls by a number of organizations, such as by economic daily Calcalist, indicated that Israelis were not overly concerned about the matter, and that they planned to continue to drink coffee as usual.