California Coffee Retailers Must Include Cancer Warning

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 02, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If your coffee didn't perk you up in the morning already, a new warning label may do it:

"This product contains ingredients known to the State of California to cause cancer." That's what a Los Angeles judge wants Starbucks to put on its coffee cups, or something like that.

In any case, the decision in Council for Education and Research on Toxics v. Starbucks Corporation definitely opened the eyes of coffee retailers.


It shouldn't have been a huge surprise, however. Acrylamide, a byproduct released when coffee beans are roasted, has been recognized as a carcinogen since 1990.

Attribute its toxic listing to California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Or as Newsweek sees it, "everything gives you cancer in California."

Of course, not "everything" causes cancer. But acrylamide is also found in starchy foods like potato chips, French fries, and some forms of bread. In other words, we are all going to die.

In the meantime, the coffee industry is still wiping its eyes from the Starbucks decision. The National Coffee Association says that cancer warnings would mislead consumers and that coffee drinkers live healthy lives.

Latte Litigation

Starbucks is weighing its legal options. The company knew about acrylamide, but argued that it posed "no significant risk."

Judge Elihu Berle had a different opinion. It came down to evidence.

"Defendants did not offer substantial evidence to quantify any minimum amount of acrylamide in coffee that might be necessary to reduce microbiological contamination or render coffee palatable," she wrote.

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