For most of us, coffee is a required part of waking up. But a Los Angeles judge has ruled that drinking coffee may have unintended negative health effects and that the public should be aware. Last night, March 29th, it was ruled that companies in California must now include a coffee cancer warning on their products due to a specific carcinogen in the beverage.
The chemical is called acrylamide, and it’s formed during the roasting process.
The coffee industry at large has previously stated that while acrylamide is, in fact, present in coffee, it’s in too low an amount to actually affect us. In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer under the World Health Organization also found limited conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect from drinking coffee.
However, the current lawsuit was brought by the nonprofit group The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which sued Starbucks and 90 other companies under a California state law that requires warning labels for a wide range of cancer-causing chemicals.
William Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association, told USA Today that the lawsuit does nothing to improve public health. “Coffee has been shown, over and over again to be a healthy beverage,” Murray explained.
But Raphael Metzger, the attorney representing the non-profit, said the industry should remove the chemical from its process. “Getting it out is better for public health than leaving it in and warning people,” Metzger said.
The lawsuit has been ongoing for eight years and is still not technically over, since the defendants have a few weeks to file objections if they so choose. If the ruling passes, defendants would have to pay a penalty of $2,500 for every person in California they exposed to coffee over the course of eight years. Let’s hope this case won’t be brewing for too much longer.