Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Java industry fighting California jurist's decision

Professor-doctor rebukes judge's final ruling that coffee labels warn about cancer risks

After countless delays (that have taken eight years), it's a done deal at last. Almost.

At least a Los Angeles Superior Court judge's final ruling about the need for warning labels on coffee has become a fait accompli, though not everyone's sanguine about his decision. 

The decision, as might be expected, is being appealed by coffee producers.
Dr. Aaron E. Carroll

And in a recent article in The New York Times under the rubric The New Health Care, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll claims the ruling — which harkens back to statewide ballot Proposition 65 enacted in 1986 and concerns a suit filed against about 90 coffee companies by a nonprofit, Council for Education and Research on Toxics — isn't backed by evidence and could do more harm than good.

The judge's decision is based on the fact that coffee contains acrylamide, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has warned is a "probable human carcinogen." 

But Carroll, a pediatrics prof at the Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy, maintains the agency "has backpedaled in recent years, [essentially reversing itself when] in 2016 it declared that 'drinking coffee was not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.'"

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle finalized his ruling in early May after having tentatively made the same decision in March.

The coffee industry has argued all along that the acrylamide is present in coffee but at harmless levels.

What's next? 

The nonprofit, according to an Associated Press story, now must "seek a permanent injunction that would either lead to ominous warning labels" or a commitment by the industry to reduce the chemical from their product, as the potato chip industry did years ago when it, too, was sued by the same group.

Carroll, who's also been outspoken that there's little evidence to support the notion that artificial sweeteners pose a health risk, asserts that acrylamide "is found in about 40 percent of the calories consumed by people in the United States," and notes that the Food and Drug Administration "reports that there is no viable commercial process for making coffee without producing at least some acrylamide."

The writer, who's opposed to most warning labels, points out that "meta analyses have shown that coffee is associated with lower risks of liver cancer, and no increased risk of prostate cancer or breast cancer," and that "when we look at cancer over all, it appears that coffee — if anything — is associated with a lower risk of cancer."

Carroll has authored a new book, "The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully," which contends that butter, salt, diet soda and alcohol have undeserved bad reputations.

Prop 65 had mandated "that businesses with more than 10 employees warn consumers if their products contain one of many chemicals that the state has ruled as carcinogenic" — a category acrylamide falls into. 

More details on which carcinogens appear in which products 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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