Something you don’t want to start your day with is a cancer warning on your cup of coffee. However, a judge ruled last Wednesday that coffee needs a cancer warning label in California, and, naturally, coffee retailers are not happy about this.
This decision came as a result of a 2008 lawsuit filed by the California-based Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT). The suit targeted Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and other coffee retailers because of the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which requires companies with 10 or more employees to warn customers about the potential carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in the products they sell.
So what chemical are they concerned about? Acrylamide is a chemical found in plant foods like potatoes or coffee, and it’s on California’s list of chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. There’s debate over whether the chemical is harmful when found in a cup of coffee. After reviewing over 1,000 studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said in 2016 that it “found no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee.”
The AP reported that Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said that Starbucks and other companies failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed the risks. Coffee chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’, who are part of the National Coffee Association, will likely appeal the ruling. William Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association, called coffee a “healthy beverage” and said that the group is “considering all of its options,” including legal action.
Coffee has been found in recent years to, in fact, decrease cancer risks. A 2017 study found that a daily cup of coffee could reduce the risk of liver cancer and endometrial cancer. Another study in 2018 found that drinking coffee after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer helped lower the risk of death.
There could be a potential scandal brewing in the lawsuit. Metzger Law Group, which sued coffee retailers on behalf of CERT, reportedly has the same address as the nonprofit, which one lawyer has some questions about.
“Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage,” Murray said in his statement. “This lawsuit has made a mockery of Prop 65, has confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health.”