Judge Orders Starbucks Coffee Display Cancer Warning

Kirsters Baish| A Los Angeles, California judge has ruled that the Starbucks Corporation (along with other coffee vendors) must start putting a cancer warning on coffee sold in the state of California. This ruling has the potential to expose Starbucks to millions in fines.

Roughly 90 coffee retailers were sued by a little-known no-profit group. Starbucks was among those coffee retailers. The suit was brought on the grounds that they were violating a California law which states that companies must warn consumers of cancer-causing chemicals in their products.

One of the chemicals found in Starbucks coffee is acrylamide. This chemical is a byproduct of roasting coffee beans which is found in ‘high’ levels in brewed coffee.

The judge who made the ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle, explained the decision on Wednesday. Starbucks and other companies did not display the significant risk caused by a carcinogen that is produced while roasting coffee to their customers.

All of the defendants have until April 10 of this year to file objections to the ruling. The coffee giant refused to comment on the matter. They referred reporters to a statement made by the National Coffee Association (NCA). The statement explained that the industry was working on an appeal as well as other legal action.

The NCA statement read, “Cancer warning labels on coffee would be misleading. The U.S. government’s own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Berle explained of his ruling, “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.”

Dunkin’ Donuts officials, McDonald’s officials, as well as officials from Peet’s and other big name coffee retailers declined to comment on the ruling.

In 2010, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) filed the lawsuit, which called for fines as high as $2,500 per every single individual who was exposed to the chemical since 2002 in the state of California. Reuters reported that “Any civil penalties, which will be decided in a third phase of the trial, could be huge in California, which has a population of nearly 40 million. CERT’s lawyer Raphael Metzger did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Starbucks lost the first phase of the trial in which it failed to show the level of acrylamide in coffee was below that which would pose a significant risk of cancer. In the second phase of the trial, defendants failed to prove there was an acceptable “alternative” risk level for the carcinogen, court documents showed.”

Multiple defendants settled prior to Wednesday’s ruling. They agreed to post signage about the cancer-linked chemical as well paying millions in fines.