Acrylamide Lawsuit Is Back, Seeks To Put Cancer-Warning Labels On Coffee Drinks Sold In California

Posted On: 9/28/2017

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Could a cup of coffee cause cancer? The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, a little-known advocacy group until this week, says it can, and wants warning labels on coffee drinks sold in California to say so.

A lawsuit filed by the organization in 2010 resumed on Monday, Sept. 25, according to the Associated Press. CERT's main complaint, AP reported, is that such retailers as Starbucks, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s violated the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65. The nonprofit group argues that these retailers knowingly violated the health code. 

At the center of the dispute is acrylamide, a carcinogen found in cooked foods such as French fries. It's also a natural byproduct of the coffee roasting process.

Proposition 65 was passed by voter initiative in 1986. Among its provisions is the requirement that "no person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual..." And acrylamide, a protein breakdown compound, is "known to the state to cause cancer," on the basis of tests conducted on laboratory animals.

In other words, the lawsuit claims that Starbucks and about 90 other companies -- now being called "Big Coffee" -- are selling drinks that could cause cancer, without informing consumers.

The National Coffee Association of USA and the National Automatic Merchandising Association have been monitoring the lawsuit since it was filed seven years ago. In 2013, NCA told Vending Times that 40 coffee roasters received notices of a potential lawsuit. NCA cautioned that the consequences of the suit -- cancer-warning labels and huge fines for violations -- could be staggering. | SEE STORY

Attorney Raphael Metzger, the lawyer taking on Big Coffee, said the lawsuit's larger goal is to influence the industry to remove the chemical from coffee, which would also benefit his own three-cup-a-day fix. Visit to learn more about the Metzger Law Group (Long Beach, CA).