Remember that cup of coffee you have for your morning kick? If you are going to buy it from a store in California, you will now be shown a warning that drinking coffee could give you cancer. This was the result of a court ruling in the US state on Thursday.
The order came in a legal battle between the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) and 90 or so coffee retailers. The list of coffee sellers fighting the restriction included big names like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's.
The next phase of the trial could have huge financial implications for all coffee sellers in the US state. CERT has asked the court to levy a fine of up to $2,500 to every person in California who has been exposed cups of coffee that had the chemical in them since 2002. The numbers of such a fine are truly mind-boggling, considering California is the most populous US state, with about 40 million people.
The cancer warning on coffee would not be mandatory anywhere else in the US. It has been passed under a 1986 law called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which is widely known as Prop 65. The law makes warning labels mandatory for products that contain any of 900 chemicals that have bene identified as harmful.
The chemical that got coffee in trouble was acrylamide, which is produced when the coffee beans are roasted. CERT had contended that it is not difficult to remove acrylamide while manufacturing coffee, and that getting reluctant coffee makers to do this was the goal of the lawsuit.
CERT had also been involved in the legal battle with potato chip manufacturers. Acrylamide is also produced in the manufacture of potato chips, and the court had ordered that packs of potato chips must carry health warnings. As a result, the industry had changed its processes to get the acrylamide removed.