Indonesian Cat-Poo Coffee Producers Deny Mislabelling

Indonesian producers of gourmet coffee made from beans excreted by civet cats denied Friday they were routinely misleading consumers after a report said coffee from caged animals had been labelled "wild".

The Indonesian Kopi Luwak Association also defended the practice of keeping the weasel-like creatures in cages to make the coffee, saying it was fine as long as the end product was clearly labelled.

"Kopi Luwak" has found its way to cafes around the world in recent years, and is one of the world's most expensive coffees.

The Asian palm civets sniff out and eat top-quality coffee berries and then defecate the fruit, giving it a rich creamy flavour.

But the BBC said it found in an investigation that some of the coffee that appeared to be ending up on the British market labelled "wild" was in reality produced from animals in battery-cage conditions.

The broadcaster said reporters witnessed civet cats in cramped cages during an undercover investigation on Indonesia's Sumatra -- a far cry from the image of the animals roaming free in the jungle.

However Teguh Pribadi, founder of the Indonesian Kopi Luwak Association, insisted mislabelling was not widespread.

"Perhaps that has happened in this case, but we don't believe it's common and we haven't heard of other instances where the coffee has been mislabelled," he told AFP.

He also insisted the practice of using cages was acceptable.

"It's legitimate to produce Kopi Luwak in cages, as long as producers comply with minimum standards and label the product as cage coffee, not wild coffee," he said, adding the animals' cages should be a minimum of one metre by two metres (three by seven feet).

The BBC talked to farmers who produced coffee from caged animals and said they were supplying exporters whose produce ends up in Europe and Asia.

The British broadcaster said the farmers told them they were supplying a major export company that sold coffee in Britain.

And the report said the company admitted there was no way of checking whether the coffee they bought from outside their own estate was truly wild.

The coffee is among the world's most expensive and can sell for around $800 per kilogramme (two pounds) in countries including Britain, the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

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