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New Coffee Label May Cause Consumer Confusion

The Lempert Report: California judge rules coffee companies must provide cancer warning label

A judge has ruled that coffee companies in California must mark each product with a cancer warning label

The process of roasting coffee beans produces acrylamide, a known carcinogen. Acrylamide occurs in other overly cooked or roasted starchy foods, such as french fries, potato chips, breakfast cereals and toast.   

There is evidence that consuming acrylamide can cause mutations and damage in the DNA of rats, which can increase risk of cancer. But, as in many animal studies, the rats were fed levels of acrylamide that were between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the levels people would be exposed to in foods, according to the American Cancer Society. 

So what made Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle issue an order that coffee companies with 10 or more employees must now put warning labels on coffee, cautioning customers that drinking coffee could pose a cancer risk? 

While an increased risk of cancer is shown in some studies, others don't find any at all, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These disparate results may occur because it's challenging to quantify how much acrylamide people consume. And it’s important to note that the NCI reports that rodents and humans absorb and metabolize acrylamide at different rates. 

Judge Berle’s ruling is based on the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, which the plaintiffs said also applies to coffee. Based on the research offered, the judge said the risk hadn't been properly evaluated. 

Many other studies show that drinking coffee may actually be good for us. Drinking coffee is linked to a decreased risk of liver cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer and one type of skin cancer. Drinking coffee is also linked to living a longer life, according to a study of more than 215,000 people ages 45 to 75.

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