A little-known not-for-profit group sued some 90 coffee retailers, including Starbucks, on grounds they were violating a California law requiring companies to warn consumers of chemicals in their products that could cause cancer. Between chemicals is acrylamide, a byproduct of roasting coffee beans that is present in high levels in brewed coffee.
It’s a chemical used mainly in certain industrial processes, such as in making paper, dyes, and plastics, and in treating drinking water and wastewater.” It also “forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally in food.” California lists acrylamide as a chemical that can cause cancer or “reproductive toxicity.” The carcinogen can also be found in French fries, potato chips, and bread. Starbucks and other defendants have until April 10 to file objections to the decision. “Cancer warning labels on coffee would be misleading. The U.S. government’s own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle,” the National Coffee Association (NCA) said in a statement. The lawsuit calls for fines as large as $2,500 per person for every exposure to the chemical since 2002 at the defendants’ shops in California. Any civil penalties, which will be decided in a third phase of the trial, could be huge in California, which has a population of nearly 40 million.