The California coffee industry is breathing a sigh of relief now that a state agency has determined that the beverage no longer must be served with a side of cancer warning.
The warnings were the result of a 2010 lawsuit filed against coffee-selling companies in California—including Starbucks and 7-Eleven, as well as mom-and-pop shops— by an organization called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics. The suit accused coffee purveyors of being in violation of Proposition 65, the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, which stipulates that a warning be affixed to consumables containing potential carcinogens.
Last year, a judge ruled that the coffee roasters and retailers were indeed required to include a cancer warning with the sale of their java, citing acrylamide, a chemical found in coffee (as well as French fries, potato chips, toast and other common foods) that is believed to be a potential carcinogen, as cause for the decision.
But that ruling will no longer stand. California’s state regulator, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, recently concluded that there is no association between coffee and a significant risk of cancer, and on June 3, the state’s Office of Administrative Law officially approved a regulation exempting coffee from the Prop 65 cancer-warning requirements.
The regulation, which takes effect Oct. 1, 2019, states: “Exposures to chemicals in coffee, listed on or before March 15, 2019, as known to the state to cause cancer, that are created by and inherent in the processes of roasting coffee beans or brewing coffee, do not pose a significant risk of cancer.”
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This conclusion adds to findings from a 2016 report published by the World Health Organizations' International Agency for Research on Cancer in medical journal The Lancet Oncology, which did not find evidence that drinking coffee could cause cancer.
"This is a great day for science and coffee lovers," National Coffee Association USA president and CEO William Murray said in a statement. "With this news, coffee drinkers around the world can wake up and enjoy the smell and taste of their coffee without hesitation."