<%rssLink ()%> <%googleAnalytics ()%>

10 AM Group 4: Will coffee in California soon come with a warning label?

Other directories: help, engl1190, umw, lane, commons, open, adp, n490, hyp, mac, psu, cfcs





Answer: Very Likely

There is not yet a solid answer to this question, but it is indeed very likely that coffee in California will come with a cancer warning label. A small non-profit is currently pursuing a lawsuit against many coffee companies claiming that the companies must warn their customers that their coffee contains trace amounts of a carcinogen. Many of the companies have settled out of court and agreed to post warnings, but it is yet to be decided if all of the companies with ready-to-drink products will be required to put up warnings in their stores.

Origin and Prevalence:

Coffee in California may soon be coming with a possible cancer risk warning. This claim was made on TIME website, but this is not where it originally came from. The warning risk for Californians started in April of 2010, The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) filed a lawsuit against 90 coffee companies such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and 7-Eleven claiming they were in violation of Proposition 65 by not warning their customers that coffee contains Acrylamide, a known carcinogen.

There has been some controversies over whether warning labels should not be posted and many factions are arguing that coffee does not cause cancer. However, some news articles, such as, Newsweek has provided information that coffee does increase your chance of getting cancer. While other articles like TIME & British Medical Journal say that coffee has shown to decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. British Medical Journal has stated "Roasted coffee is a complex mixture of over 1000 bioactive compounds, with therapeutic antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifibrotic, or anticancer effects that provide biological plausibility for recent epidemiological associations."

CEO, Bill Murray, of the National Coffee Association has stated "coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage. The US Government's own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle." California is the only state who is pursuing placing warning labels on their coffee drinks due to Proposition 65.

Issues and Analysis:

Contact with Acrylamide generally comes from dermal exposure and inhaling dust and vapors. The general population also faces exposure through contaminated drinking water or eating foods where Acrylamide is a byproduct of the cooking or roasting process. Coffee is one of a growing list of foods, including french fries, potato chips and some baked goods, that contains acrylamide. Current scientific data done by The National Toxicology Program and the Environmental Protection Agency classify Acrylamide as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans", however, no conclusive evidence on its effects have yet been produced. This chemical has been only proven to cause cancer in lab rats and mice. The FDA released a guidance outline to help industries decrease the amount of Acrylamide in their products. In theses guidelines, pages 26 and 27, it states "dark roast coffee has less Acrylamide than light roast coffee (since Acrylamide formed early in roasting is destroyed later in the roasting process." It is also worth noting that the amount of Acrylamide in coffee decreases after the grinding and brewing processes.

California's Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, was passed in 1986. Proposition 65 was put into place as a means for Californians to make informed decisions about chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Proposition 65 requires the state to create and maintain a list of known carcinogens, this list now contains more than 800 chemicals. Acrylamide was added to this list in 1990 and in 2002 the International Agency for Research on Cancer placed acrylamide as a group 2A carcinogen for humans based only on animal research. However, in 2014, the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer claimed that human trials showed "no statistically significant association between dietary Acrylamide intake and various cancers."

In April 2010 the Metzger Law Group filed a civil suit on behalf of the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) against approximately 90 "ready-to-drink" coffee companies claiming these companies were in violation of Proposition 65 by not placing a warning label, regarding the possible effects of acrylamide, on their products. The companies were also given the option of trying to reduce the Acrylamide content of their products if they did not want to proceed with a warning label.

While this lawsuit has been in litigation since 2010 there has been little attention given to it. In 2015 the coffee companies lost, "In the first phase, Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said the defense failed to present enough credible evidence to show there was no significant risk posed by Acrylamide in coffee" ( Mercury News). The case resumed in September of 2017, no outcome has yet been reached in this lawsuit. Court is set to resume on February 16th, 2018 at 1:30.

While many companies have already agreed to warn their customers of Acrylamide, the state of California will most likely start to require stores to post these warnings. The judge is set to make a final decision by the end of 2018 as the coffee companies do not seem to be able to present enough proof to persuade the judge that their coffee does not cause cancer. To this end it seems all too likely that Californians will have their coffee served with a cancer warning label within the year.


Acrylamide, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/


A. Shipp et al., Acrylamide: Review of Toxicity Data and Dose Response Analyses for

Cancer and Noncancer Effects Taylor & Francis Online (2008), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408440600851377.

Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health

outcomes, The BMJ (2018), http://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k194.

Council for Education and Research on Toxics vs. Starbucks Corporation,


Guidance for Industry Acrylamide in Foods, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2016),



Jaime Ducharme, California Coffee May Have Cancer Warning Over Acrylamide Time

(2018), http://time.com/5126779/california-coffee-cancer-warning/?xid=homepage

Luke Hurst, Drinking Three Cups of Coffee a Day Reduces Risk of Heart Attacks

Newsweek(2016), http://www.newsweek.com/drinking-five-cups-coffee-day-

reduces-risk- heart-attacks-310602.

OEHHA Admin, The Proposition 65 List OEHHA (2018), https://oehha.ca.gov/


R.R. Maronpot, R.J.M.M. Thoolen & B. Hansen, Two-year carcinogenicity study of

acrylamide in Wistar Han rats with in utero exposure Experimental and

Toxicologic Pathology (2014), https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0940299314001791.

The Associated Press, Lawsuit: Coffee sold in California should carry cancer warning

labels The Mercury News (2017), https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/26/ lawsuit-coffee-sold-in-california-should-carry-cancer-warning-labels/.

The NCA Guide to Acrylamide & Coffee, NCA - National Coffee Association USA - Est.

1911, http://www.ncausa.org/Industry-Resources/Acrylamide.

Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Acrylamide, (2012), https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/


All Content released CC0 (Public Domain) by the Digital Polarization Initiative.

The Digital Polarization Initiative is a cross-institutional project that encourages students to investigate and verify the information they find online. Articles are student-produced, and should be checked for accuracy before citation as sources.

DigiPo members can edit this page

Photo Credit: Header photos generate in randomly. Check this page for a list of photography credits and licensing.

The Digital Polarization Initiative is a student-run project which allows university students to investigate questions of truth and authority on the web and publish their results. Learn more, or see our index. Photo credits here. DigiPo members can edit this page.