If you go to grab a cup of coffee in California, it may come with a cancer warning.
CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus, director of the Westside Cancer Center at USC, says he believes it is too early to put this kind of blanket warning on coffee. This suggests that it also has the potential to cause cancer in humans.
According to the FDA , the studies linking acrylamide to cancer in lab animals used much higher amounts of the chemical than what's usually found in food and coffee, and studies were still being done on the risk of lower doses.
The California Safe Drinking Water and Tax Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Prop 65, requires that California business disclose when any chemicals on that list are present. The rule has led to warning labels on everything from airports to Disneyland for chemicals found in those building's construction.
In his order, Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said that Starbucks and the other defendants did not prove that coffee with acrylamide is healthy. It said that the chemical was present at harmless levels and shouldn't cause any concern, but failed to demonstrate compelling evidence. It cited statements from the World Health Organization that the drink does not cause cancer and "study after study" showing that coffee offers health benefits like longevity. "The constitutional right of Californians to pursue and obtain safety could be an untapped source of riches that plaintiffs' attorneys should consider on behalf of their clients and the public", Metzger wrote a while back in the San Francisco Daily Journal regarding the prospect of tort claims based on the California Constitution's "inalienable rights" provision.
At least 13 of the defendants had settled prior to this decision and agreed to give a warning, including 7-Eleven, according to Metzger. The defendants have until April 10th to file objections to the ruling. But 14 years later, they ruled that coffee and similar beverages weren't cancer-causing.
The law put the burden on the defense to show that the level of the chemical won't result in one excess case of cancer for every 100,000 people exposed. The organization then classified it as a "possible carcinogen" in 2016. The NCI reports that, in terms of cancer, a "large number" of studies in humans have found "no consistent evidence that dietary acrylamide exposure is associated with the risk of any type of cancer".
The presence of acrylamide is not now regulated in food, but it is regulated in drinking water and some materials that come into contact with food. "Going one step further, there is a recognised body of evidence that drinking coffee actually reduces the risk of cancer".
California added acrylamide to its carcinogen list in January 1990, and the state has successfully taken companies to court over it. Companies like Starbucks will have to tell customers that their coffee can potentially cause cancer.
In 2007, fast food restaurants in California posted acrylamide warnings about fries and paid court penalties and costs for not posting the warnings in prior years. Usually, it's produced when starchy foods are heated to high temperatures, giving the food its characteristic brown color and flavor.