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Current Position:Home » Documents » Food Laws & Regulations »

FDA supports exempting coffee from California’s cancer warning law

  • Published: 2018-09-07
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  • Language: English
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 Earlier this year, California Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled that Starbucks and other coffee sellers did not show that the risk from consuming acrylamide, a possible cancer-causing byproduct created during coffee roasting, was offset by benefits from drinking coffee. Therefore, he decided that coffee retailers in the state should have to post cancer warnings where their customers can see them.
Now, a proposal by officials in the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)—the state agency that oversees Proposition 65—to exempt coffee from the state’s list of known cancer-causing compounds has prompted other groups and agencies to chime in with their support to exemption. Recently, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement agreeing with the OEHHA’s proposal. “Requiring a cancer warning on coffee, based on the presence of acrylamide, would be more likely to mislead consumers than to inform them,” wrote Gottlieb.
Acrylamide can form in many foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. As Gottlieb explained, “In coffee, acrylamide forms during the roasting of coffee beans. Although acrylamide at high doses has been linked to cancer in animals, and coffee contains acrylamide, current science indicates that consuming coffee poses no significant risk of cancer. This finding was reflected in a comprehensive report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.”
In a letter to the OEHHA, William Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association (NCA), showed his support for the proposed exemption of coffee from cancer disclosure. “In addition, NCA requests that OEHHA adopt the rulemaking as promptly as possible,” wrote Murray. “There are some retailers who are already providing Proposition 65 warnings for coffee in light of pending litigation, the risk of extreme penalties, and possible future litigation. Once consumers are warned about a product, the resulting mental impression is very difficult to reverse; it is akin to a bell that cannot be un-rung. The prospect of additional warnings, with the potential for even greater consumer confusion, requires prompt action from OEHHA.”
The public comment period on the OEHHA proposed regulation closed on August 30 and the agency aims to have it finalized by the end of the year.
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