Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle has coffee companies in California in a quandary. He issued a ruling a couple of weeks ago saying coffee must now have a cancer warning label.
Judge Berle’s ruling comes out of a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the Council for Education and Research on Toxics. It charges that Starbucks and 91 other defendants are not warning customers that ingesting coffee exposes them to acrylamide.
It’s a chemical formed when coffee beans are roasted.
The plaintiffs noted acrylamide is on a list of chemicals California considers cancer causing or harmful for reproductivity. It has been on the list since 1990. The plaintiffs also pointed out that California’s Proposition 65 — the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 — says businesses must put cancer warning labels on products containing the chemicals on that list.
In his decision, Judge Berle said the companies were not able to demonstrate that the chemical does not pose a significant risk when produced during roasting. “Since defendants failed to prove that coffee confers any human health benefits, defendants have failed to satisfy their burden of proving that sound considerations of public health support an alternate risk level for acrylamide in coffee,” the judge wrote.
The decision sent the National Coffee Association — whose members include Starbucks and other major coffee producers — scurrying for a response. William Murray who heads up the association said the implications — as you know — are enormous. Over 3.4 billion pounds of coffee was consumed in the U.S. between October of 2016 and September of 2017.
The association agrees acrylamide is in coffee but it points out the levels are minuscule. “Coffee is much more than acrylamide — it literally contains hundreds of substances, and is one of the most heavily studied foods of all time,” Murray said.
He pointed out putting labels on coffee is just going to confuse consumers and is misleading. The World Health Organization doesn’t think coffee is cancer causing and neither do others. Bunches of studies, Murray points out, show that coffee offers long term health benefits. “Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage,” he added.
By the way, the National Cancer Institute says — among foods — coffee is a major source of acrylamide. But so are potato chips, bread, breakfast cereals and canned black olives. In other words, acrylamide levels vary and the institute said, “people are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.”
As for what will happen next? All the association would say it that it is “currently considering all of its options, including potential appeals and further legal actions.”
Source link: The New York Times