SACRAMENTO – Business leaders in California are welcoming a move by regulators to not include a toxic substance warning on brewed or roasted coffee.
But the California Chamber of Commerce is noting that legal cases against the makers, distributors and retailers of coffee are continuing to dispute a finding that there is little evidence trace amounts of a chemical in the beverage causes cancer.
The conclusion by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment follows years of court action and a judge's ruling last year that the beverage must come with a warning under Proposition 65 laws governing toxic substance warnings.
Policy Advocate Adam Regele | California Chamber of Commerce
Coffee includes trace amounts of acrylamide, a known carcinogen, but the assessment office came to its conclusion following a World Health Organization review of 1,000 studies that found there was little evidence the beverage causes cancer. Acrylamide is on a list of toxic substances as defined under legislation that followed the passing of Proposition 65. The California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) announced approval of the assessment.
Coffee makers and sellers, including Starbucks, Target and Nestle, but also smaller independent operators, were first sued eight years ago over allegations they violated the state law on toxic substances. A number of suits were settled. Last year, a judge in Los Angeles found the beverage should come with a warning.
"In the bizarro world of Proposition 65, some sanity has been restored," Adam Regele, policy advocate with the California Chamber, said. "The finalization of the new regulation brings much relief to the business community involved with the roasting, packaging, distribution and selling of coffee in California."
But the chamber argues that the battle over coffee is not over, pointing out that more than 80 businesses are still facing legal action in Los Angeles Superior Court from a group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT).
According to a recent report in Ars Technica, a tech and science website, CERT lists its address as that of the Metzger Law Group in Long Beach, the firm behind the action on coffee and many other Proposition 65 cases. CERT is has no website or other presence physically or on the web, the site reports.
The chamber claims that Metzger, following the regulator's assessment, is now arguing that the exemption is not legally valid and, even if it was, it does not apply retroactively.
On its website, the law group states, "The Metzger Law Group is concerned that this carcinogen is in so many foods that we eat and is seriously undertaking efforts to require food companies to reduce the acrylamide content of their food products or, if they cannot do so, to warn California consumers that this carcinogen is present in the foods that they sell."