It may be odd to think that a macchiato has something in common with a pack of cigarettes, but according to Proposition 65, a state law in California, all products containing any of around 1,000 chemicals must be labeled as a risk of Cancer or birth defects. On Wednesday, March 23, 2018, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle determined that Starbucks and other Coffee-centered businesses were incapable of proving that a chemical in their drinks was not a cancer risk.

The danger

During the roasting period of coffee brewing, a chemical known as acrylamide is produced.

The issue was first brought up in 2010 when the Council for Education and Research on Toxics claimed that a notice of the presence of a carcinogen must be placed on coffee products under Proposition 65.

Acrylamide is used industrially to create dyes, papers, and plastics, and it is used to treat water and sewage. Most frighteningly, acrylamide is present in tobacco smoke.

In the food world, acrylamide is found in all sorts of snacks, like bread, cookies, prune juice, canned olives, fries, breakfast cereals, and coffee.

While rodent tests have concluded that high acrylamide intake can increase cancer risks, human studies have remained inconclusive.

California's response

Despite the best efforts of the coffee companies, Judge Berle concluded that their stance on coffee as a health beneficiary was not convincing enough and lacked enough facts to carry weight in the controversy.

He also dismissed their claims that a small amount of acrylamide was necessary for flavor and to eliminate any possible contaminations in the coffee.

The president of the National Coffee Association, William Murray, expressed a clear distaste for the ruling in a statement. He claimed that public health would not be positively affected and the warnings would mislead the public.

While the coffee industry is planning for future actions, Murray believes that the state law has become a joke if this proceeding is a valid health concern.

The ruling has led to several disgruntled citizens, who feel that the labeling of coffee as cancer risk is a waste of time.

Even before the decision to label coffee as a risk, there were previous instances in which Proposition 65 was called out as a flawed initiative.

The final ruling may not be released yet, but it is safe to assume that it will not favor coffee companies. If you live in California and enjoy your morning espresso, you might notice a cancer warning next to your misspelled name very soon.