California May Start Putting Cancer Warning Labels On Coffee

There is a large portion of us that just can’t accomplish anything without getting our morning coffee. If you live in California, though, this vital morning routine may soon come with a pretty good reason to be nervous. California coffee shops might soon have to put cancer warning labels on their cups thanks to a chemical that’s produced when coffee beans are roasted.

The chemical in question is called acrylamide. It first came to light as a cancer-causing agent in 2010 when a lawsuit was filed against major sellers of coffee, including BP, 7-eleven, and of course, Starbucks. The lawsuit claims that the companies failed to put a warning label on their products stating that the coffee may contain acrylamide. While that’s technically true, the coffee companies recently retorted (the lawsuit has just now been brought before a judge) that the levels of acrylamide in coffee are so low that their products should be deemed safe to consume under law.

Many of the defendants, including 7-eleven, have agreed to warnings on their cups. If a judge finds the other manufacturers guilty of violating the state law that requires warning labels on cancer-risk products, they’ll have to start putting labels on their products, too, but they’ll also likely be fined.

Many of the manufacturers are referring to studies conducted on coffee and the fact that studies have shown that the beverage actually has many health benefits, including a reduction in heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. The manufacturers also feel that this lawsuit is simply going to confuse consumers at a time when California’s Prop 65 cancer warnings should be crystal clear.

Many experts believe that the effects of acrylamide still need a lot of research. Coffee isn’t the only product that the chemical can be found in, either. Acrylamide can be found in many baked goods like crackers, bread, and cookies, as well as potatoes. A similar lawsuit was settled in 2008 when manufacturers of potato chips and French fries were required to reduce the levels of acrylamide found in their foods.