In May, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled that coffee sold in California must carry cancer warnings because Starbucks Corp and other coffee roasters had failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any risks from a carcinogen that is a byproduct of the roasting process.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has now proposed a regulation that will exempt coffee from carrying the warnings.
The OEHHA’s recently proposed regulation states that drinking coffee does not pose a significant cancer risk, despite the presence of chemicals created during the roasting and brewing process.
In a review of more than 1,000 studies, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded there is “inadequate evidence” that drinking coffee causes cancer. IARC found coffee is associated with reduced risk for cancers of the liver and uterus, and does not cause cancers of the breast, pancreas and prostate. IARC also found coffee drinking exhibits strong antioxidant effects related to reduced cancer risk.
Proposition 65, approved by California voters in 1986, is a right-to-know law that requires businesses to provide clear and reasonable warnings when they knowingly cause exposures to chemicals the state has listed as causing cancer or reproductive effects. The law has prompted the reduction or elimination of lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals in a variety of products.
However, the statute does not require cancer warnings on products where exposure to the listed chemicals does not cause a significant cancer risk.
While the proposed regulation would largely exempt coffee from Proposition 65 cancer warnings, it does not address exposures to listed chemicals that may occur if the chemicals are intentionally added to the coffee mixture or enter the mixture as contaminants in some way other than the process of roasting and brewing.
The posting of the proposed regulation initiates a public comment period that will run until August 30.