Starbucks Ordered to Add Cancer Warnings on Coffee in California
California is often seen as a laid back, easygoing state, but they are extremely serious when it comes to informing citizens about potentially cancer-causing products. We’ve previously written about California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, and how it requires businesses and corporations like Monsanto to include clear warnings about possible carcinogens contained in their products. West coast coffee lovers may soon become more familiar with this law, as a Los Angeles judge has ruled that Starbucks and other coffee retailers must display cancer warnings on coffee sold in California.
The decision was reached following a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the Council for Education and Research on Toxics. The group alleges that Starbucks and similar ready-to-drink coffee companies should be required to reduce levels of acrylamide (a known carcinogenic chemical produced in high levels during the bean roasting process) or warn consumers of the potential risk by putting cancer warnings on coffee sold in the state.
Despite claims by the coffee manufacturers that removing acrylamide from their products isn’t feasible without sacrificing flavor, as well as citing existing U.S. dietary guidelines stating that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle, the court sided with the plaintiffs. In a proposed ruling on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle stated that coffee makers failed to show there was no significant risk from acrylamide in roasted coffee beans.
“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,” Judge Berle wrote in his proposed ruling. “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving … that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.”
The lawsuit calls for fines up to $2,500 per person for each exposure to acrylamide since 2002. Considering California’s population is nearly 40 million, this could be a massive wakeup call to companies who fail to disclose potential cancer risks associated with their products.
Starbucks and other defendants have until April 10, 2018 to file objections to the decision.