California coffee companies must carry a cancer warning sign because a chemical is being produced while beans are being roasted, a Californian judge ruled on Wednesday.
The decision was the result of a lawsuit filed in California in 2008 by California's The Council for Education and Research on Toxicides (CERT).
The lawsuit is directed against Starbucks and dozens of other coffee suppliers under the US Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which requires companies with more than 10 employees to prevent their customers from spreading carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products Warn  Acrylamide, a chemical compound naturally produced in the preparation of certain foods, such as roasting coffee beans, is on the list of chemicals known to be carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction.
No one discussed whether acrylamide is found in coffee. But what was up for debate was whether it was harmful in Java. The burden of proof applies to coffee growers and retailers that, according to the judge, acrylamide does not pose a significant health risk.
In his ruling, Judge Elihu Berle of the Los Angeles Superior Court said Starbucks and other companies did not show that coffee brought health benefits or that coffee posed no health risks, the AP reported.
Earlier in the process, Berle also ruled that coffee companies could not prove that the risks posed by acrylamide were insignificant.
"While the plaintiff offered evidence that the consumption of coffee was the risk of harm to the fetus, infants, children and adults, medical and epidemiological experts The defendant testified that they had no opinion on causality, "Berle wrote. "The defendants failed to substantiate their evidence by providing overwhelming evidence that the consumption of coffee is an asset to human health."
The ruling, however, contradicts a plethora of evidence that drinking coffee safely and possible has health benefits, such as reducing the risk of some cancers.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found, according to an analysis of more than 1,000 human and animal studies in 2016, that they found "no conclusive evidence of a carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee".
Numerous studies also suggest that coffee reduces cancer risks. A 2017 report found that a daily cup of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer and endometrial cancer.
A study from 2018 found that coffee was associated with a lower risk of death after the diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
And a meta-analysis of 2018 revealed that drinking four cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk for postmenopausal breast cancer.
Butcher Law Group, which coffees on behalf of CERT, cited a Swedish study that found that foods at high temperatures – such as potatoes, French fries and coffee – contain high levels of acrylamide.
The law firm wrote on its website that it is "worrying that this carcinogen is in so many foods we eat" and that it is "seriously endeavoring" to induce food manufacturers to reduce the amount of acrylamide in their products or to warn "Californian consumers" of the chemical in foods.
The Butchers Law Group sued McDonald's and Burger King, who eventually settled and agreed to put warning signs on their fries, pay civil penalties to California, CERT and lawyer Raphael Metzger, The New Food Economy reported , The law firm applied the same formula to potato chip makers.
Skeptics abound. At least one lawyer had previously questioned Metzger and his relationship with CERT, wondering why the nonprofit and law firm had the same address.
The American Council for Science and Health called such lawsuits an attempt "to get hold of a huge bag of money," Forbes reported.
The Associated Press reported that the judge had given coffee companies a couple of weeks to submit their objections. The proposed decision has been completed.
Some defendants in the coffee suit have already settled down, including 7-Eleven, who agreed to pay $ 900,000, the AP reported.
In response to a request for comment, Starbucks NPR referred to Thursday's statement by the National Coffee Association:
"Coffee has been shown over and over again to be a healthy drink," said William Murray, President and Managing Director of the National Coffee Association. "This lawsuit has scorned Prop 65, confused consumers and done nothing to improve public health."
Prop 65 is the 1986 Act of Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement of the State Issued by Electoral Initiative  The Coffee Association is considering appealing the verdict and taking further legal action.
The lawsuit is ongoing. A third phase will determine civil penalties of up to $ 2,500 per person, which are exposed every day in eight years, the AP reported.