A judge in Los Angeles has ruled that coffee companies must have a warning label for cancer because of a chemical that is produced during the coffee’s roasting process.
Elihu Berle a Superior Court Judge said on Wednesday of this week that Starbucks as well as other companies had failed in showing that benefits from coffee drinking outweighed risks. He ruled during an earlier part of a trial that companies did not show the threat in the production of the chemical was not significant.
Starbucks as well as 90 companies more were sued by the nonprofit group Council for Education and Research on Toxics, under a California law that requires there be warnings on a broad range of different chemicals that could cause cancer. On that list is the carcinogen acrylamide that is present in coffee.
Berle in a proposed ruling wrote that the defendants failed in satisfying the burden they had of proving that the consumption of coffee has a benefit to the health of humans.
Members of the coffee industry have said that chemical present in coffee was at levels that are harmless and should receive an exemption from following under the 1986 law due to resulting naturally from the process of roasting that makes the beans flavorful. The industry argued as well that coffee was good for the human body.
The judge’s ruling came despite relaxed concerns over recent years of the possible dangers from coffee, with some recent studies actually finding coffee had health benefits. Coffee was taken of the “possible carcinogen” list of the World Health Organization’s cancer agency International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2016.
The California lawsuit came under the 1986 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act that allows advocacy groups, citizens as well as attorneys to file suit on behalf of California and collect part of any civil penalties.
This law was credited with lowering chemicals that can cause cancer as well as birth defects, like lead contained in hair dye, arsenic found in bottled water and mercury found in nasal sprays.
However, it has been heavily criticized for lawyer abuses such as shaking businesses down for quick out of court settlements.
The National Coffee Association CEO and President William Murray said that over and over again coffee has shown it is a health beverage and argued that the lawsuit does nothing in the way of improving public health.
This suit has been going on for eight years with no finish in site. A third phase for this trial is to determine the civil penalties that could be as high as $2,500 per person exposed daily for eight years.