Starbucks Must Tell Customers Its Coffee Contains a Cancer-Causing Ingredient
Earlier today, a California Superior Court judge issued a ruling that’s bound to stress out lots of java drinkers—even if it probably shouldn’t. Companies like Starbucks will have to tell customers that their coffee can potentially cause cancer.
The case was first brought before the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2010 by the nonprofit Council for Education and Research on Toxics. The plaintiffs claimed that since the process of roasting coffee beans produces a chemical called acrylamide, which is suspected of being carcinogenic, 20 coffee-selling companies were obliged to affix a warning label to their cup of joe. As of late, the plaintiffs had reached settlements with several defendants like 7-Eleven to include warnings, but others like Starbucks chose to fight it out in court.
According to the AP, Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said in his decision he didn’t buy the defendants’ argument they were exempt from the law because the amounts of acrylamide in coffee are insignificant.
But while there’s evidence, mostly in animals, that acrylamide can be carcinogenic in high enough doses, that isn’t the case for coffee itself. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified acrylamide as a group 2A carcinogen in 2002, meaning they found it could probably cause cancer in people based on animal research. But 14 years later, they ruled that coffee and similar beverages weren’t cancer-causing. Elsewhere, other research has found coffee provides plenty of (relatively small) health benefits.
Still, it’s not the first time food companies have been forced to reckon with acrylamide in California. A decade ago, the state attorney general reached a settlement with several potato chip-selling companies like Lays and fast food chains like Wendy’s over allegations their products had high levels of the chemical. They agreed to pay fines and reduce the level of acrylamides in their products.
According to the AP, it’s unlikely the ruling will be overturned through an appeal.
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