California judge says coffee must be served with acrylamide cancer warnings

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09 May 2018 --- A Los Angeles judge has ruled that coffee makers, including big players like Starbucks, must provide cancer warnings on coffee sold in California.

Earlier this week, Superior court Judge Elihu Berle said that roasters and retailers had failed to demonstrate that the benefits of drinking coffee outweighed any risks from acrylamide, a known carcinogen, which can be a byproduct of the roasting process.

The ruling comes after a US non-profit group sued a wide range of coffee companies under a Californian law that requires products and places where cancer-causing chemicals are present to carry a warning.
 
The judge said that sellers did not show that the risk from consuming acrylamide was offset by the benefits of drinking coffee.
 
Admitting that acrylamide is found in coffee but at harmless levels, the coffee industry said their product should be exempt from the law because the acrylamide is a natural result of cooking.
 
Acrylamide forms naturally during high-temperature cooking and processing, such as frying, roasting and baking, particularly in potato-based and cereal-based products. It is not possible to eliminate acrylamide from foods, but actions can be taken to try and ensure that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable.

Due to the suspected toxicity of the substance, acrylamide levels in food have been monitored for years and are subject to much debate and discussion.
 
This Californian case comes shortly after new European Union legislation came into force recently concerning the amount of acrylamide in foods with “benchmark” levels being set for various products.
 
Passed by the EU last year, April 11 marked the beginning of the law in Europe which limits the amount of acrylamide allowed in packaged foods and forces manufacturers to closely examine and reduce acrylamide levels in products.

In an opinion adopted in 2015, the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups.
 
The ruling in California now paves the way for the Council for Education and Research on Toxics to ask for a permanent injunction that could lead to warnings on labels or spark the industry to examine ways of reducing or eliminating acrylamide from their products.

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