The hyper-caffeinated brand voluntarily recalled its Nitro cans after discovering a risk for the toxin

By Tim Nelson
February 07, 2018
photo by Davin G Photography via getty images

Death Wish Coffee got a big boost when it beat out 15,000 other businesses to win a free commercial spot during Super Bowl XL last year. But  recent recall of its Nitro Cold Brew could go down as a loss, highlighting a lack of FDA oversight in the process.

This week, the upstate New York coffee roaster voluntarily recalled its Nitro cans from local retailers and their website after discovering their nitrogen-infused product presents a slight risk for exposure to Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) toxins. No cases of botulism (a potentially fatal nerve disease whose symptoms include muscle weakness and difficulty breathing) have been linked to the company’s cold brew cans as of yet. Regardless, Death Wish founder/owner Mike Brown said he wanted to take the “proactive step to ensure that the highest quality, safest, and of course, strongest coffee products we produce are of industry-exceeding standards.”

It’s possible the makers of “The World’s Strongest Coffee” are suffering from some caffeine-induced paranoia. But the voluntary recall does draw attention to the lack of quality assurance standards for nitrogen-infused beverages. Though Death Wish has passed every FDA and state inspection since launching in 2012, regulations have yet to keep pace with the explosive growth in the nitro cold brew coffee category. 

The trendy take on cold brew is usually a-ok when poured from the tap at a coffee shop, things get more complicated when that same coffee gets canned and sits unopened for an extended period of time. A “process specialist” suggested that Death Wish could take an additional step in its production process to safeguard consumers from C. botulinum toxins. Brown & co. figured the safest bet was to recall their existing stock and start fresh with a safer product, even if tests showed there’s been no degradation of quality in their existing stock.

For now, that nitro latte is probably safe to drink. Hopefully the FDA gets around to imposing a set of safety standards for this growing coffee product category sooner rather than later.