By PETER GIULIANO
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.
- The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICA) has come down decisively on the issue, stating, “Coffee doesn’t need to carry a cancer warning, scientists say it protects from cancer.”
- This represents the view of scientists, including those from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who call the lawsuit “profoundly misguided”.
- Finally, on this topic, the National Coffee Association, our respected partner in coffee and health science, has prepared a number of great resources on Proposition 65 link and on acrylamide which we enthusiastically point our members to.