In the state of California, a judge has ruled that coffee retailers in the state must post warnings about the risk of cancer.
According to the Washington Post, The Council for Education and Research on Toxics brought the lawsuit against the coffee industry eight years ago, saying that these companies violated “a state regulation requiring businesses with at least 10 employees to disclose the prevalence of carcinogens and toxic chemicals.”
A chemical known as acrylamide is produced in the bean roasting process and is present in brewed cups of coffee. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted its removal from processing or disclosure of its risks in labels. The coffee industry argued that the level of the chemical isn’t harmful, and that coffee’s benefits outweigh its risks.
Ultimately, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle determined that the defendants had failed to show that it posed no risk or added any health benefits to coffee at all.
“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 ruling. “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.”
If the ruling stands, coffee companies would not only have to include a warning label but may also face stiff financial penalties. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics has asked for civil penalties of up to $2,500 per person that has been exposed to the chemical since 2002. This would lead to massive settlements from companies such as Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee.
Scientific studies on coffee have been inconsistent on its carcinogenic properties. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency that's part of the World Health Organization, has determined that coffee itself is not a carcinogen. Studies have even linked its consumption to a decreased risk of liver cancer, uterine cancer, colon cancer, and a certain type of skin cancer.