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Coffee Doesn’t Cause Cancer, Says California Health Risk Agency

The state’s proposed carcinogen warning labels may be axed before they even begin

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A Starbucks cup full of coffee with the lid removed sits on a table Hyun Woo Kang/Flickr

Good news for coffee roasters and retailers doing business in the state of California: Coffee probably doesn’t cause cancer after all. Recently proposed regulations that would have required cancer warning labels for the caffeinated beverage could be tossed out.

In March, a California court ruled in favor of a lawsuit from an environmental group, dating back to 2012, which argued that consumers ought to be made aware of a carcinogen called acrylamide that’s naturally produced during the coffee-roasting process. Under the ruling, which fell under the state’s Proposition 65 — which requires businesses to provide patrons with a “clear and reasonable warning” about materials or ingredients that may affect their health — companies selling coffee, from Starbucks to 7-Eleven, would have to display signage and/or clearly mark their coffee products with a warning label.

But California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) — which, as its name indicates, is in charge of assessing environmental health risks — now states that consuming acrylamide contained in coffee poses “no significant cancer risk,” as Fortune reports, citing a recent study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Last week, the OEHHA proposed a new regulation that would mean coffee sellers would not in fact have to attach cancer warning labels to their products.

“Coffee, a unique and complex chemical mixture made from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, contains many different compounds, including carcinogens listed under Proposition 65, and anticarcinogens,” the OEHHA writes. “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — the only Proposition 65 authoritative body to have evaluated coffee — concluded that coffee consumption is not classifiable as to its overall carcinogenicity and is associated with reduced risk of certain cancers in humans.”

Following the March ruling, numerous big coffee companies including Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, Folgers, and Keurig Green Mountain clapped back with a court filing arguing that they’d already proved in a previous trial that coffee did not contain dangerous levels of acrylamide, and that coffee is in fact “independently associated with a decreased risk of several major chronic diseases.”

Acrylamide is found in numerous foods and beverages, such as french fries, roasted nuts, and prune juice. While the Food and Drug Administration is still conducting research on the effects of acrylamide consumption, it does acknowledge that the substance has been shown to cause cancer in animals and offers tips on how people can limit the amount of the substance they consume. Many studies that have looked at cancer risk from consuming acrylamides in coffee remain inconclusive.

The review phase for California’s newly proposed regulation runs through the end of August, while a public hearing is set for August 16 in Sacramento.

Coffee Doesn’t Cause Cancer After All, Says California Health Regulator [Fortune]
Coffee Causes Cancer, According to the State of California [E]
Coffee Companies Prepare to Battle California Cancer Warning Labels [E]