Friday, March 30, 2018

Acrylamide chemical in java may be perilous

Judge rules Starbucks, 90 other companies may have to display coffee warning in California

Because of a judge's decision, Starbucks and about 90 other roasters, grocery stores and retail shops may soon have to display a cancer warning on coffee sold in California.

According to yesterday's Associated Press story by Brian Melley, the Los Angeles judge ruled in favor of a nonprofit, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, that had sued the companies in 2010 for failing to comply with state law by not providing a "clear and reasonable warning" of a known carcinogen.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle's decision — to the effect that the companies hadn't shown the threat from the chemical was insignificant — was issued as a proposed ruling, which means he could change his mind (although, reportedly, that's unlikely).

Berle, the AP piece said, gave the defense several weeks "to file objections to the proposed ruling before he makes it final."

After that ruling, a decision on monetary damages could be forthcoming.

The suit has centered on a chemical, acrylamide, that was produced in the roasting process.

Berle wrote that, while the "defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving…that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health," the plaintiff had "offered evidence that consumption of coffee increases the risk of harm to the fetus, to infants, to children and to adults."

He also said that the "defendants' medical and epidemiology experts testified that they had no opinion on causation."

The AP story noted that the coffee industry has maintained that "the chemical was present at harmless levels and should be exempt from the law because it results naturally from the cooking process necessary to make the beans flavorful."

The article also indicated that attorney Raphael Metzger, who brought the lawsuit, said "he wants the industry to remove the chemical from its process [but] coffee companies have said that's not feasible and would make their product taste bad."

Metzger's group had earlier brought a similar case that resulted in potato-chip makers agreeing in 2008 "to pay $3 million and remove acrylamide from their products rather than post startling warnings that can be found throughout California and are largely ignored," the story added.

Many coffee companies, according to the AP, "have already posted warnings that specifically say acrylamide is found in coffee and is among chemicals that cause cancer. However, many of those warnings are posted in places not easily visible, such as below the counter where cream and sugar are available."

William Murray
William Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association, has claimed in an emailed statement that "coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage. This lawsuit…has confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health."

Nearly half the defendants in the coffee case have already settled — and agreed to post warnings. Among the latest was 7-Eleven.

Details on everyday products that may cause cancer can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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