Cafes in California may soon be forced to warn customers of potential cancer risks associated with the morning shake

    Abdulaziz Sobh

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    Cafes in California may soon be forced to warn customers of potential cancer risks associated with the morning shake

    The state maintains a list of chemicals that are considered potential causes of cancer, one of which, acrylamide, is created when roasting coffee beans.
    Filed a lawsuit for the first time in the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2010 by the non-profit Board of Education and Research on Toxic Substances targeting several companies that manufacture or sell coffee, including Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and BBS. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants "failed to provide a clear and reasonable warning" that drinking coffee can expose people to acrylamide.
    The court documents state that under the California Safe Water and Toxicity Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65, companies must give customers a "clear and reasonable warning" about the existence of factors that affect health - and that these stores have failed to do so.
    In addition to paying fines, the plaintiffs want companies to publish warnings about acrylamide with an explanation about the possible risks of drinking coffee. If the lawsuit is successful, the signs need to be clearly posted in-store counters or on walls where someone can easily see them when making a purchase.
    Raphael Metzger, a lawyer representing the non-profit organization, said he really wanted coffee companies to reduce the amount of the chemical to a point where it did not have a major cancer risk.
    "I'm addicted to coffee, I admit, I would be able to get mine without acrylamide," Metzger said.
    In a bench trial last fall, coffee companies argued that the level of acrylamide in coffee should be considered safe under the law and that the health benefits of coffee outweigh the risks.
    At least 13 of the defendants have settled and agreed to give another warning, 7 to 11, according to Metzger. The chain of stores did not respond to comment requests.
    Other manufacturers must follow suit if they can not resolve the case and if the judge finds that they violated state laws. Metzger said private brokerage would be set up with the remaining retailers on Feb. 8. It will have nine accused and the two sides will try to reach an agreement on the case. Otherwise, the judge may reach a decision this year.
    He did not respond to requests for comment.
    Starbucks referred questions to the National Coffee Society, the trade association in the industry, which said it was not in a position to comment on litigation.
    "Coffee has been introduced, over and over, to be a healthy beverage," said Bill Murray, president of the association and chief executive officer. "The US government's food guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle, and this suit simply confuses consumers, The ability to make a mockery of the 65 Pillar Cancer warning at a time when the public needs clear and accurate information about health. "

    Some additional studies have seen an increased risk of kidney, ovarian and endometrial cancer. However, "the assessment of exposure was not sufficient leading to poor classification or potential underestimation of exposure," according to the 2014 Research Review.
    Even studies showing the cancer relationship between acrylamide in rats and mice used doses ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 times the normal amounts, on the basis of weight, to which humans are exposed through food sources, the study said.
    Humans are also thought to absorb acrylamide at different rates and metabolize it differently from rodents, as previous research has shown.
    The National Toxicity Program report on carcinogens is that acrylamide "is reasonably expected to be a human carcinogen".
    The Food and Drug Administration's website says it is "still in the information gathering phase" on the chemical, but the FDA has introduced consumers suggesting ways to reduce it from their diet. FDA has also provided guidance to the industry aimed at proposing a set of approaches that companies can use to reduce acrylamide levels. Recommendations are only a guide and "not required", according to the site.
    California added acrylamide to the carcinogenic list in January 1990, and the state successfully sued the companies to court.
    In 2008, the California Attorney General settled proceedings against Heinz, Frito-Lai, the food kettle and the Lance company when companies agreed to reduce acrylamide levels found in potato chips and fries.
    In 2007, fast food restaurants in California published acrylamide warnings about fries and court-paid penalties for not publishing warnings in previous years.
    "We have a major cancer epidemic in this country, and about a third of cancers are linked to diet," Metzger said. "As far as we can get carcinogens from food supplies, logically, we can reduce the burden of cancer in this country, that's what it is all about."



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