LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Your latte could soon be coming with a cancer warning.
Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle proposed in a Los Angeles Court this week that coffee sold in California should carry a warning label. He said Starbucks and about 90 other coffee companies sued by a nonprofit failed to show the threat from cancer-causing chemicals, including acrylamide, is not a “significant risk” to health, the Associated Press reported.
Acrylamide, which appears naturally during the bean roasting process, is not found in coffee in large amounts, facts the companies have said should exempt them from the law requiring warnings.
Bill Ristenpart, Director of the UC Davis Coffee Center, described acrylamide as “the major reason you get this yummy brown stuff on the outside of your steak when you char it.”
In high doses, acrylamide has been found to cause cancer in mice.
In 2010, the nonprofit Council for Education and Research on Toxics sued the coffee companies, grocery stores and retail shops, claiming they failed to follow state law requiring warning signs about hazardous chemicals found in everything from household products to the environment.
According to AP, “The law puts 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.”
Some coffee retailers like Gloria Jean’s and 7-Eleven gave in and started posting signs, but Starbucks and others decided to fight the lawsuit.
In response to the ruling, the industry group representing coffee makers said it was considering how to move forward, including possible “appeals and further legal actions,” adding that the lawsuit is a “mockery.”
“Cancer warning labels on coffee would be misleading,” a statement from the National Coffee Assn. read. The statement continued, “The US government’s own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that coffee does not cause cancer. Study after study has provided evidence of the health benefits of drinking coffee, including longevity — coffee drinkers live longer.”
In fact, massive scientific study published just last month concluded coffee is actually healthy, adding that it could help reduce the chance of developing certain kinds of cancers, type-2 diabetes and neurological diseases.
Dr. David Agus agrees with the NCA. “I believe in transparency, but at the same time, when you put a bold declaration — ‘X may cause cancer’ —when there isn’t data to that effect in humans, to me, it causes panic rather than informed knowledge,” Agus told CBS News.
The companies have until April 10 to file objections to the judge’s proposal.
California judicial proposals rarely get reversed, AP said.