LOS ANGELES (AP) – It's fair to say that a lot of people awoke on Friday to a headline that might have made them more alert than a morning cup Joe: A Californian judge had ruled that coffee was in the state was sold, should carry a cancer warning.
Here are some things you should know about the verdict and how it might affect you:
What's wrong with coffee?
Like many foods that are cooked, coffee roasting creates a chemical by-product called acrylamide, which is carcinogenic.
The Toxic Education and Research Council, a small non-profit organization, has brought the coffee industry to justice under California law. Warnings are required if there are chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.
Coffee companies, led by Starbucks Corp., confirm the presence of the chemical, but said that it is found in trace amounts that are harmless. They argue that all risks are offset by other health benefits from drinking the drink.
While scientists have been toying for benefits or risks of coffee for years, concerns have recently eased and some studies have found health benefits and even lower risks found certain cancers.
But a Los Angeles court judge said coffee companies failed to prove their case.
The National Coffee Association said the industry is considering all options, including appeals and further legal action.
Have I seen this before?
The same group brought potato chips to court in California years ago because acrylamide is contained in fried potatoes. Under an agreement, the industry agreed to remove the chemical from chips.
Lawyer Raphael Metzger, who represents the non-profit organization, said that if chip makers could do it, coffee roasters could. That is his ultimate goal.
But coffee companies have said that it is not feasible to remove acrylamide without ruining the taste of the coffee.
In addition to the warnings, coffee companies could face some civil penalties of up to $ 2500 per person in California every day for over eight years.
& # 39; & # 39; The judge could impose crippling punishments, which is all the more reason why these companies should be able to settle the case & # 39 ;, Metzger said Friday.
When will I see cancer warning signs?
Those living or visiting California may have noticed signs warning about cancer risks at gas stations, hardware stores, coffee shops, and even Disneyland.
The law was passed by voters more than 30 years ago, and the signs are so ubiquitously often vaguely worded that most people pay little attention. For example, parking garages warn: & # 39; & # 39; This area contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. & # 39;  & # 39; "The breadth of the law requires a proliferation of warning, which results in the public being warned because there are so many without specificity that they are essentially largely ignored," said attorney Jim Colopy, the manufacturer and trader in similar ones
Following the lawsuit, many cafes began to post warnings that specifically state that California has found acrylamide to belong to chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
The signs also indicate that cancer risk is influenced by a variety of factors and that the Food and Drug Administration has not recommended humans to stop drinking coffee or to consume baked goods containing acrylamide.
However, many of the signs shown are in places that are not easy to see, for example, under the counter where cream and sugar are available.
The decision could be f hear that labels are attached to the counters where customers see it before buying and require warnings on the packaging of ground coffee and bags of roasted beans.
Is this a crazy Californian law?
The law applies only to California, but the state is such a huge market that adapting packaging with alerts specifically to doing business in the state could be a big job.
Colopy said it is not feasible for its customers to market products nationally and worldwide to create California-only packaging.
& # 39; & # 39; Industry often has no choice, but to deliver a warning, no matter where they are sold, whether inside or outside of California, "he said.
So, the short-circuit answer is maybe.
Proponents of the law would argue that a broader conscience is not so bad.