Very soon, coffee shops in California can be required to publish coffee cancer warnings on their store’s walls due to their state’s chemical list of chemicals with the potential to cause cancer. This list includes acrylamide — a chemical created during the roasting process. Under the state’s Proposition 65, businesses are required to let customers know if their products contain any of these 65 chemicals associated with obesity, birth defects, or other reproductive issues. In a lawsuit filed in 2010, the nonprofit Council for Education and Research on Toxics alleged that in failing to give customers a “clear and reasonable warning” about the presence of a possible carcinogen, California coffee sellers are in breach of these laws.
Reducing Coffee Cancer Burden
The lawsuit was aiming to get companies such as Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and even 7-Eleven to post warnings about acrylamide (and its potential to cause cancer), whereas the main goal of the suit was to get companies to reduce levels of acrylamide in coffee altogether.
“We have a huge cancer epidemic in this country, and about a third of cancers are linked to diet,” said Raphael Metzger, the attorney representing the nonprofit. “To the extent that we can get carcinogens out of the food supply, logically, we can reduce the cancer burden in this country. That’s what this is all about.”
Luckily, 13 companies have agreed to post warning labels on walls or store counters. The nine companies remaining will try to come to an agreement in a trial set for February 8.
Coffee Cancer Risk
The companies are arguing that the amount of acrylamide present in coffee isn’t high enough to increase the risk of cancer, though we’d imagine the facts should be out there to let the consumer decide for his or herself.
According to the American Cancer Society, acrylamide causes cancer in rats, but only when the rodents were exposed to doses 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the average human might be exposed to in foods such as potatoes, baked goods, cereal, prune juice, or canned black olives; as the National Cancer Institute states that people are exposed to “substantially more” acrylamide from cigarette smoke than from food.
So far, studies have found “no consistent evidence that dietary acrylamide exposure is associated with the risk of any type of cancer.” However, more studies are needed to help determine the chemical’s relationship with human cancer risk.
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