All California coffee retailers will now be required to post health risk warnings about the beverage after a ruling on March 29th. Warnings must state that the danger of the beverage isn’t off set by the energy benefits. Some retailers such as 7-Eleven opted to drop out of the lawsuit and agreed to pay fines and post the warnings.
It had already been ruled earlier by Court Judge Elihu Berle that taking in a carcinogen in a cup of coffee is not an insignificant risk. The judge has been look over a lawsuit over the last 8 years by the “Council for Education and Research on Toxics”, an advocacy group, under a law passed in the state by referendum in 1986. Under the act, warnings are to be placed on products that may contain carcinogens in order to decrease the inadvertent exposure to agents that cause cancer.
In its lawsuit, the advocacy group alleges that the process of roasting coffee creates a small amount of acrylamide, which is a well known carcinogen. Defendants such as Starbucks argued that health benefits of coffee outweigh the small risk. Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle, however, said the “defendants failed to satisfy their burden”.
The trial has moved into a third stage to see if the defendants will have to pay civil penalties due to the exposure of a health risk to the public. The law put in place in 1986 requires violators to pay $2,500 to each person who was exposed to the health risk. Those numbers add up quickly for the companies.
A number of people do not expect the judge to impose such high penalties. The advocacy group recently had a lawsuit against potato chip manufacturers in which all defendants had agreed to pay $3 million.
In the original lawsuit, many coffee retailers had settled with nonprofit Group. 7-Eleven paid $900,000 in December in order to resolve the situation. BP West Coast Products LLC paid $675,000 in the lawsuit in order to settle the matter. The group has made it clear that they would like the coffee roasting process to be changed but defendants have said that it is just not possible.
Retailers are required to post the following signs on their point of sale:
“Chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity, including acrylamide, are present in coffee, baked goods and other food or beverages sold here. Acrylamide is not added to our products, but results from cooking, such as when coffee beans are roasted or baked goods are baked. As a result, acrylamide is present in our brewed coffee.”
Coffee manufacturers that are based in California may also be forced to post the warning labels on their products that are sold in other states. Consumers in other states aren’t as desensitized to the language that is more common on the products in California. The warnings that companies have to post on their product has changed in just the past year to comply with Proposition 65. According to the K&L Gates law firm, it is now required for retailers to have a government website link, their transmission method and a list of carcinogenic chemicals.
“Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage,” said the president of the National Coffee Association, William Murray. “This lawsuit has made a mockery of Prop 65, has confused consumers and does nothing to improve public health.”