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California Coffee Shops Should Warn About Cancer Risk From Coffee Chemical, Lawsuit Alleges

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An old lawsuit could eventually force coffee shops in California to put out warnings that coffee could cause cancer.

The process of roasting coffee beans creates a chemical called acrylamide, which is on the list of chemicals linked to a potential cancer risk in California. Back in 2010, a non-profit called the Council for Education and Research on Toxins filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against a number of major companies such as Starbucks, BP, 7-Eleven, and others that make or sell coffee.

Coffee Chemical Acrylamide And Risk Of Cancer

The lawsuit argues that the companies did not offer "clear and reasonable warning" to inform customers that drinking coffee may expose them to acrylamide. Court files point to the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly referred to as Proposition 65. It states that businesses must clearly warn customers about any agents that might jeopardize their health. The defendants failed to warn about acrylamide and they should make amends.

Coffee Shops Should Post Warnings

The lawsuit seeks to force the defendants not only to pay fines but also to put out warnings about the acrylamide chemical, explaining how drinking coffee involves potential risks. Should the non-profit group win this lawsuit, California coffee shops would have to post clear and visible signs at counters or on the walls of their shops.

This way, when customers want to buy coffee, they would easily see the risks it may pose and make an informed decision whether to purchase it or not. Coffee is the drug of choice of most, and warning signs might not deter them from making their purchase. They should, nonetheless, be made aware of the risks.

Attorney Raphael Metzger, who represents the Council for Education and Research on Toxins in this lawsuit, says that the ideal outcome would be to determine coffee companies to lower the amount of acrylamide to a level that would no longer pose a significant risk of cancer.

Some Coffee Companies Settled, Others Not

The coffee companies, meanwhile, argued at a previous bench trial that the acrylamide level found in coffee should be deemed safe under the law, and that coffee brings more health benefits than risks. Metzger added that he's addicted to coffee himself, but he would like to have it without acrylamide.

According to the attorney, 7-Eleven is the latest company among the defendants to settle and concede to issue a warning. At least a dozen other companies have reached a settlement as well. The remaining defendants, meanwhile, are set to enter private mediation next Thursday, Feb. 8. If they fail to reach a settlement, the case will go on and a judge will likely make a ruling this year.

What Else Contains Acrylamide?

Coffee is not nearly the only popular item to contain the infamous chemical. Acrylamide is also present in potatoes, as well as breakfast cereal, cookies, bread, baked goods, prune juice, and more. Tobacco smoke also contains acrylamide and exposes more people to it than coffee does, notes the National Cancer Institute.

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