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California moves to declare coffee “safe” and not a cancer hazard

California moves to declare coffee “safe” and not a cancer hazard

For the first time in ages, California regulators have chosen wisely.

Legal Insurrection readers will recall a California court ruled that coffee shops had a duty to warn patrons of the cancer hazard associated with a component of roasted coffee called acrylamide under the state’s notorious Proposition 65 rules.

During my day job as an environmental health and safety professional this week, I was asked to assess the cancer warning required for packages of coffee.  Typically, a label for chemical solutions is easy to develop.  However, my client also sells coffee packets as part of its business-oriented product lines, and such a product doesn’t typically require such a warning.

So, I poured myself a cup of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend and dialed the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to inquire exactly the nature of the labeling my client would require.  The vague and incoherent response from the bureaucrat I eventually talked to was astonishing.

I ended the call vowing to leave California at the earliest opportunity. Then, I culled some data, looked at the court case, and drafted an opinion about the contents of a potential label that would be compliant with Proposition 65.

It appears I may not have been the only one who placed a call to the regulating agency and our state representatives about the fallout from the court’s decision.  OEHHA officials have now proposed a regulation change to declare coffee doesn’t present a significant cancer risk, countering a recent state court ruling mandating cancer warnings.

California officials bucked a recent court ruling Friday and offered reassurance to concerned coffee drinkers that their fix won’t give them cancer.

The unprecedented action by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to propose a regulation to essentially clear coffee of the stigma that it could pose a toxic risk followed a review of more than 1,000 studies published this week by the World Health Organization that found inadequate evidence that coffee causes cancer.

…If the regulation is adopted, it would be a huge win for the coffee industry which faces potentially massive civil penalties after recently losing an 8-year-old lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court that could require scary warnings on all coffee packaging sold in California.

Proposition 65 is a complex rule that drains California business of money. Enforcement is done via court cases that are brought by private agencies (think a merry band of green justice warriors) about 95% of the time.

Enforcement of Proposition 65 is carried out by civil lawsuits brought by public enforcers (the California Attorney General, city and county prosecutors) and private plaintiff’s attorneys (95% of cases). The civil penalties for failure to comply with Proposition 65 are steep –up to $2,500 per day per violation. Further, private enforcers, such as CERT [Council for Education and Research on Toxics], retain 25% of any civil penalties and can also recover their attorneys’ fees and costs, which strongly encourages private enforcement of the law.

The more money these groups get, the more cases are brought. And the madness continues.

For the first time in ages, California regulators have chosen wisely.  There may be hope after all.

Coffee….the greatest addiction ever.


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Prop 65 is like accusations of racism, where both have been so widely and incorrectly applied as to now be utterly useless.

    healthguyfsu in reply to MajorWood. | June 16, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Exactly, the funny part is that most of the country would just ignore the “known in the state of California to cause cancer” warning, but California has enough of the freaksters to freak out about it.

    They don’t want to taint that liberal idiot who runs Starbucks.

    Besides, now that coffee is ‘safe,’ leftist politicians can now allow it – and thus tax it.

    Fiftycaltx in reply to MajorWood. | June 17, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Large capacity semi-automatic coffee brewers should be BANNED! Along with “high capacity” cups. Coffee drinkers should be required to register and be fingerprinted and photographed and their neighbors should be advised when they move into a neighborhood. “Coffee houses” should be kept 1000 feet from churches, schools, bars and planned parenthood centers. Drinking coffee while driving should be treated just like drunk driving. There is NO RIGHT to drink coffee mentioned in the Constitution and it should be BANNED!

Such a relief!
Now that Kuhlifornia says it’s OK, I can finally start drinking coffee.

There is a running joke about this among attorneys. ” (Name Product) causes cancer in California. Avoid California.”

    MajorWood in reply to puhiawa. | June 16, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    For the record, people in my Portland mochahut didn’t find this funny at all. I guess things operate differently in their socialist utopia.

“For the first time in ages, California regulators have chosen wisely. There may be hope after all.”

Perhaps the blind squirrel found a nut. Wait till you get the second positive data point before you let that desperate “Hope” character out of its cage.

Wisdom has nothing to do with it. Coffee is the fuel of the hipster, so they couldn’t ban it without starting a riot. Secondly, it’s likely that there are major kickbacks between organizations like Starbuck’s and progressive politicians.

So in the end, this was probably just more greed and self-dealing.

“…private enforcers, such as CERT [Council for Education and Research on Toxics], retain 25% of any civil penalties and can also recover their attorneys’ fees and costs,…”

This is legislative malpractice.

As proof, I offer the cited coffee case.

Coffee has been drunk by extremely large numbers of people for centuries. If it was dangerous, we would know by now, just as we know about alcohol and salt. Nevertheless, the incentive is for true believers to essentially file a lawsuit on contingency (very lot cost to free) with the possibility of having the entire suit paid for by someone else AND a big profit has created a cottage industry. Add in the abysmal education level of most judges in matters scientific, and we get stupid precedent.

Aww, darn it. I was hoping to get a Proposition going banning coffee from state buildings or their premises.

Let the politicians and judges deal with not being allowed their coffee at work, even if they bring it in or brew it in their offices.

As the noted philosopher Henny Youngman said, “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”

Coffee loves me; it loves me not. Coffee focuses your thinking; coffee gives you stomach cancer. Coffee helps pain medication work faster; coffee lowers your pain threshold. Coffee helps ADHD; coffee makes you hyper. Coffee causes an early death; but it makes you a damn gorgeous corpse! Coffee is great to share with friends; just get it from AOTS – Anyone Other Than Starbucks.

    MajorWood in reply to Sally MJ. | June 17, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    It is all relative. There is a 1:2500 chance that coffee will give me pancreatic cancer. Without coffee, there is a 1:10 chance that I will be unemployed. As always, I go with the upside odds.