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California judge rules coffee must carry cancer warning



LOS ANGELES coffee in the state of California must carry a cancer warning, a judge here rules in one stroke

Starbucks

and other retailers who argued that a state law that should protect consumers should not apply to them.

The Proposed Verdict of the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge

Elihu Berle

found that Starbucks and other companies could not prove their case that a chemical found in coffee did not cause significant damage.

A nonprofit organization called the Council for Education and Research on Toxic sued the sellers of coffee in 201

0, claiming the presence of acrylamide, a chemical created during the roasting process, is carcinogenic and requires a warning under state law known as Proposition 65 ,

Following the loss of an earlier phase of the case, companies argued in the fall of last year that they should be allowed to come up with an alternative level of exposure to acrylamide in coffee.

Judge Berle said in the ruling that the companies "do not provide substantial evidence to quantify a minimum amount of acrylamide in coffee that may be necessary to reduce microbial contamination or make coffee palatable." The defendants also argued that coffee itself has some health benefits, "was not convincing."

A Starbucks spokeswoman referred to a request for comment to the National Coffee Association, which said the coffee industry is considering possible appeals or other legal options. "Cancer warnings on coffee would be misleading," the president and executive director of the club,

William Murray,

said. "This process has scorned Prop 65, confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health."

Under Proposition 65, cancer warnings are already appearing in places as far away as home-building lobbies, parking garages, and restaurants. Companies must warn of the presence of more than 900 chemicals on a list of those known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Acrylamide, used in industrial processes such as the production of paper and dyes, is also produced during the cooking process for many baked and fried foods, including potato chips, bread and French fries. Many of these products also contain cancer warnings as a result of litigation.

Judge Berle still has to make a final decision, usually reflecting a proposed decision, as well as a rule for penalties that companies might face.

Write to Sara Randazzo at [email protected]


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