Sell coffee with a cancer warning, says US judge
COFFEE cups from stores such as Starbucks should carry a cancer warning, a US judge has ruled.
The decision could mean all coffee cups in California are required to display messages similar to those on cigarette packets.
The ruling puts an end to a court battle that has been fought for eight years between a non-profit group and more than 90 food and drinks companies, including Starbucks.
The case centres around a carcinogenic present in coffee called acrylamide, which is produced in the roasting process.
The ruling could also mean coffee companies have to pay thousands of dollars to ordinary customers who say they have been exposed to acrylamide.
The case came before Judge Elihu Berle when the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) brought a lawsuit against the companies. Californian state law requires clear warnings on a wide range of chemicals that can cause cancer.
The Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that the coffee companies had failed to prove that acrylamide was not harmful to health. His ruling is likely to be seen as very controversial. Scientists have debated how healthy coffee is for decades – and in 2016, the World Health Organization moved the drink off its ‘possible carcinogen’ list.
However, Judge Berle said existing studies did not adequately assess the risk. In his proposed ruling, he wrote that the defendants had ‘failed to satisfy their burden of proving... that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health’.
Proposed California judicial decisions can be reversed but this rarely happens, meaning the judge’s comments are likely to be final. The location of the warning has not been decided but it could be on the cup.
Studies indicate coffee is unlikely to cause breast, prostate or pancreatic cancer, and it even seems to lower the risks for liver, uterine, breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Evidence is inadequate to determine its effect on dozens of other cancers.
William Murray, president of the US National Coffee Association, said coffee had been shown to be healthy.
He argued CERT was misusing a law designed to reduce chemical exposure in items such as plastic water bottles.