A Los Angeles judge has determined that coffee companies must carry an ominous cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process.
Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday [March 29] that Starbucks and other companies failed to show that the threat from the chemical was insignificant.
The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, a nonprofit group, sued Starbucks and about 90 other companies under a state law that requires warnings on a wide range of chemicals that can cause cancer. One is acrylamide, a carcinogen present in coffee.
“While plaintiff offered evidence that consumption of coffee increases the risk of harm to the fetus, to infants, to children and to adults, defendants’ medical and epidemiology experts testified that they had no opinion on causation,” Berle wrote in his proposed ruling. He added that the companies failed to prove that coffee provides benefits to human health.
The coffee industry had claimed the chemical was present at harmless levels and should be exempt from the law because it results naturally from the cooking process that makes beans flavorful.
The ruling came despite eased concerns in recent years about the possible dangers of coffee, with some studies finding health benefits. In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer — the cancer agency of the World Health Organization — moved coffee off its “possible carcinogen” list.
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