Effect of temperature and relative humidity during transportation on green coffee bean moisture content and ochratoxin A production

J Food Prot. 2007 Jan;70(1):164-71. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-70.1.164.


Changes in temperature, relative humidity, and moisture content of green coffee beans were monitored during transportation of coffee from Brazil to Italy. Six containers (three conventional and three prototype) were stowed in three different places (hold, first floor, and deck) on the ship. Each prototype was located next to a conventional container. The moisture content of the coffee in the container located on the first floor was less affected by environmental variations (0.7%) than that in the hold and on the deck. Coffee located in the hold showed the highest variation in moisture content (3%); in addition, the container showed visible condensation. Coffee transported on the deck showed an intermediary variation in moisture (2%), and there was no visible condensation. The variation in coffee moisture content of the prototype containers was similar to that of the conventional ones, especially in the top layers of coffee bags (2 to 3%), while the increase in water activity was 0.70. This suggests that diffusion of moisture occurs very slowly inside the cargo and that there are thus sufficient time and conditions for fungal growth. The regions of the container near the wall and ceiling are susceptible to condensation since they are close to the headspace with its high relative humidity. Ochratoxin A production occurred in coffee located at the top of the container on the deck and in the wet bags from the hold (those found to be wet on opening the containers at the final destination).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Coffea / chemistry*
  • Coffea / microbiology
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Food Packaging / methods*
  • Humidity
  • Ochratoxins / biosynthesis*
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Temperature
  • Transportation


  • Ochratoxins
  • ochratoxin A