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California rules on Prop 65 coffee cancer warnings

The State of California has ruled to exempt coffee from Proposition 65 cancer warnings.

Under Proposition 65, California law requires that products contain cancer warnings if they will expose consumers to chemicals that California health authorities have identified as causing cancer.

Roasted coffee contains small amounts of the chemical acrylamide, leading Californian Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle to rule it must carry a cancer warning in May 2018.
The ruling came after American non-profit organisation the Council for Education and Research on Toxics filed lawsuits against almost 100 coffee retailers in California.

The decision was opposed by the National Coffee Association, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) – the government entity that administers Prop 65.

The organisations all argue that acrylamide levels in coffee are too low to pose a carcinogenic threat.

Read more:
• Dose of truth: California, coffee and cancer
• California moves to clear coffee of cancer stigma
• Judge rules coffee sold in California must carry cancer warnings

“Literally hundreds of independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies – not funded by the coffee industry – show that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of serious diseases including liver cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes – and more. Research also suggests that coffee drinkers may live longer than non-coffee drinkers,” NCA CEO William Murray says.

“The total body of research regarding coffee and cancer was reviewed recently by the World Health Organization, which concluded that coffee is not carcinogenic and may even help protect against some types of cancer.”

The FDA made a statement in August 2018 saying a cancer warning on coffee, based on the presence of acrylamide, would be more likely to mislead consumers than to inform them.

“Such a warning could mislead consumers to believe that drinking coffee could be dangerous to their health when it actually could provide health benefits,” the FDA says.

“Misleading labelling on food violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. No state law can require food to bear a warning that violates federal law.”

The OEHHA has been considering coffee's exemption from Prop 65 since August.

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