A Los Angeles judge has found that coffee companies need to carry an ominous cancer warning sign because of a chemical produced during the roasting process.
Judge Elihu Berle of the Supreme Court said Wednesday that Starbucks and other companies did not prove this benefit to drink coffee outweighed any risk. He decided at an earlier stage in the process that companies had not shown that the threat of the chemical was insignificant.
The nonprofit Council on Education and Research on Toxic sued Starbucks and 90 other companies for a state law that requires warnings about a variety of chemicals that can cause cancer. One is acrylamide, a carcinogen present in coffee.
"The defendants have not fulfilled their burden of proof … that the consumption of coffee gives an advantage to human health," Berle wrote in his proposal.
The coffee industry had claimed that the chemical is present in harmless amounts and should be exempted from the law, as it naturally results from the cooking process that makes beans spicy. It has also been argued that coffee is good for the body.
The decision came despite the concern expressed in recent years about the possible dangers of coffee, with some studies finding health benefits. In 201
The lawsuit was filed under voters' Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Analysis Act 1986. It allows private citizens, advocacy groups and lawyers to sue on behalf of the state and collect part of the civil penalties.
The law was credited with causing chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects, such as lead in hair dyes, mercury in nasal sprays, and arsenic in bottled water. But it is also often criticized for the abuses of lawyers shaking off companies for quick billing.
"Coffee has been shown over and over again to be a healthy drink," said William Murray, President and CEO of the National Coffee Association in response to the decision. He argued that the lawsuit "does nothing to improve public health".
The lawsuit has been developing for eight years and is still not over. A third phase of the trial will impose civil penalties of up to $ 2,500 per person over eight years each day, an astronomical figure in a state of $ 40 million that is barely imposed.
Lawyer Raphael Metzger, who raised the lawsuit and drinks daily a few cups of coffee and wants the industry to remove the chemical from the process. Coffee companies have said that is not feasible.
"Getting it out is better for public health than leaving it and warning people"
Metzger's client brought a similar case that the attorney general later picked up on This led potato chip manufacturers to agree in 2008 To pay $ 3 million and remove acrylamide from their products.
The chipmakers decided to publish cancer warnings as found throughout California and largely ignored. 19659002] Car parks have signs that warn of chemical hazards that can cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. They find that carbon monoxide and gas and diesel exhaust are present and that people should not stay longer than necessary.
Many coffee companies have already warned that acrylamide is contained in coffee. However, many are located in places that are not easy to see, such as under the counters where cream and sugar are available.
The judge has given the defense several weeks to file objections to the proposed decision before finalizing it. California judges can retract their preliminary decisions, but rarely do so.
About a dozen of the defendants in this case have already settled down and agree to publish warnings, Metzger said. Some defendants who are fired or associated with larger companies have around 50 defendants.
Among the last to settle was 7-Eleven, who was willing to pay $ 900,000. BP West Coast Products, operator of gas stations, paid $ 675,000
Even in Starbucks stores where the labels stand, many coffee drinkers know nothing about it.
Coffee drinkers in the afternoon in a Los Angeles store They said they could look into the alarm or drink a cup of coffee, but the cup of Joe would probably win.
"I do not think it would stop me," said Jen Bitterman, a digital marketing technologist. "I love the taste, I love the ritual, I love the high, the energy, and I think I'm addicted to it."
Darlington Ibekwe, a lawyer in Los Angeles, said a cancer warning would be annoying I would not stop him from indulging in three bars a week.
"It's like cigarettes, how, damn, now I have to see that?" he said. "Dude, I enjoy my coffee."
— Associated Press Writer Amanda Lee Myers of Los Angeles and AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione of Milwaukee contributed to this story.