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California moves to clear coffee of cancer stigma

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), has proposed a regulation to clear coffee of its toxic stigma.

The decision follows a review of more than 1000 studies published by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that found “inadequate evidence” that drinking coffee causes cancer.

On 15 June, the OEHHA, the lead state agency that implements Proposition 65, gave notice that it wishes to add a new section to Article 7 of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations, section 25704.

"The proposed regulation would state that drinking coffee does not pose a significant cancer risk, despite the presence of chemicals created during the roasting and brewing process that are listed under Proposition 65 as known carcinogens," the agency said in a statement. "The proposed regulation is based on extensive scientific evidence that drinking coffee has not been shown to increase the risk of cancer and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer."

The proposed regulation would clarify this determination.  

The state agency implements a law passed by voters in 1986 that requires “clear and reasonable warnings” of about 900 chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects. One of those chemicals is acrylamide, a byproduct of coffee roasting and brewing.

A public hearing will be held on 16 August at the California Environmental Protection Agency Building in Sacramento, California, inviting anyone to make comments orally or in writing on the proposed action. 

If the regulation is adopted, coffee packaging sold in California won’t be required to display cancer warning signs.

Last month, Judge Elihu Berle found that Starbucks and other coffee roasters and retailers had failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any cancer risks. The state's action rejects that ruling.

The lawsuit against Starbucks and 90 companies was brought under a law that allows private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the state and collect a portion of civil penalties for failure to provide warnings.

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