The ruling wouldn't impact coffee roasters' business in the other 49 states, but it could force big companies, like Starbucks, to simply include the cancer warning on all of their coffee bags to prevent them from creating a separate label for California.
One of those chemicals, acrylamide, is a byproduct of the roasting process, and is present in high levels in brewed coffee. "I need my coffee, or I'm a total diva", she said. But what was up for debate was whether it's harmful in java.
Cancer warning labels on coffee would be misleading.
In an earlier phase of the trial, Berle also ruled that coffee companies failed to show that the risks posed by acrylamide were insignificant. In his decision, Berle said: "Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health". "All of these studies have been proven wrong, and there is no convincing evidence that coffee is a cancer causing agent", Joseph Galati, MD, medical director for the Center of Liver Disease and Transplantation at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, told Teen Vogue.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies have found that acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in rats and mice when the chemical is placed in the animals' drinking water at doses "1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the levels people might be exposed to in foods".
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A 2018 study found that coffee was associated lower risk of death after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) lists coffee as one of the major food sources of acrylamide, along with potato chips, crackers, bread, cookies, breakfast cereals, canned black olives and prune juice. Even after a California judge decided this week that coffee should come with a cancer warning, my immediate response was to take another sip. The law firm applied the same formula to potato chip manufacturers. CERT's lawyer Raphael Metzger did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Several companies, including 7/11, settled before Berle handed down his decision on Wednesday.
"A cup of coffee a day, exposure probably is not that high", and probably should not change your habit, said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"This lawsuit has made a mockery of Prop. 65, has confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health", said William Murray, president of the National Coffee Association, who added that coffee had been shown to be a healthy beverage.
The lawsuit has not yet concluded. In addition to slapping a cancer warning on each cup of joe, the companies may have to pay millions in civil penalties and lawsuit settlements.