On the California Court Ruling That May Require Coffee to Carry a Cancer Warning Label

On the California Court Ruling That May Require Coffee to Carry a Cancer Warning Label

BBy now, you’ve seen the news: a judge recently ruled in a case related to California’s Proposition 65 that coffee will likely need to carry warning labels that suggest that certain chemicals in roasted coffee may cause cancer.


This case has been underway for many years, and it stems from a controversial use of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1985. In short, the law requires warning labels that advise consumers about any chemical that may be cancer causing.

In 2002, Swedish scientists discovered that a chemical called acrylamide exists in many foods, including coffee, and at very high doses, rats exposed to acrylamide had a higher risk of developing certain cancers. This made it possible to target coffee under Proposition 65, even though coffee has never been shown to increase cancer risk- in fact, the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that coffee may reduce the risk of many cancers. A number of coffee companies engaged in a legal battle over the issue, and disappointingly, a judge ruled the wrong way on the issue today. We prepared the following statement:

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is disappointed to learn of a recent ruling in a California court that may require coffee to carry a cancer warning label.

The preponderance of scientific evidence points to coffee consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle, and there is no evidence that coffee is carcinogenic. In fact, the bulk of recent independent studies suggest that coffee may have some role in preventing certain cancers.

For this reason, the American Institute for Cancer Research has recommended that coffee not carry a cancer warning, and the World Health Organization recently stated that there is no reason to consider coffee carcinogenic.

This decision will have a negative effect on consumers who will be confused by cancer labels on a beverage that is known to be part of a healthy diet and on small coffee businesses who will need to navigate the legal complexities of this decision. The SCA is committed to providing support and information on this topic to our members in the coming weeks.

We know many of you have questions about this topic and are answering questions from concerned customers, friends, and family. We will be developing and sharing resources over the next weeks and months, but here are a few things to get you started.


What are your concerns or questions regarding this ruling? Let us know on Twitter @SpecialtyCoffee and on Facebook.