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Coffee Requires Cancer Warning, California Judge Rules (cnbc.com) 330

Scientists haven't rendered a verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you but a California judge has. He says coffee sellers in the state should have to post cancer warnings. From a report: The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing -- like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago -- or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.
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Coffee Requires Cancer Warning, California Judge Rules

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  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:05AM (#56352829)

    the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds

    So what do they do with all their waste product?

    • by Adolf Hitler, Jr. ( 5334465 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:43AM (#56353083)
      It is typically soaked in another potential carcinogen DHMO [dhmo.org] (unproven thus far) and sold to innocent civilians at less-than-lethal doses whenever a cinnamon roll or bagel is sold on an individual basis.

      It is much like how Alcoa took waste from the aluminum refining process 70-80 years ago and managed to sell it to cities to put in their water supplies.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) can be extremely lethal when improperly dosed, especially as an inhalant. US officials often use it to torture victims at Guantanamo Bay, it's that insidious. Anyone distributing DHMO in a negligent fashion needs to be aware of their implications upon humanity. I must admit, I too sometimes abuse DHMO, but I do so with knowledge of my own risk without putting others at danger.

  • Pun alert (Score:5, Funny)

    by computer_tot ( 5285731 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:06AM (#56352833)
    Proper grounds. I see what you did there.
  • Pointless labels (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:09AM (#56352855)

    When everything has to have a warning label the labels start being ignored. Maybe it's time to just start saying everything in California causes cancer and call it a day?

    • Idiotic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:18AM (#56352927) Homepage

      Indeed, this is idiotic.

      There is ample evidence showing that coffee is surprisingly good for you. Saying it has to be labelled a "carcinogen" is doing nothing to help anybody's health, but is contributing to people ignoring warning labels, which is not a good thing. California's laws are stupid and counterproductive.

        http://time.com/4116129/coffee-longer-life/ [time.com]

      http://www.webmd.com/alzheimer... [webmd.com]

      https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/06/this-is-your-brain-on-coffee/

      http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/16/456191657/drink-to-your-health-study-links-daily-coffee-habit-to-longevity

      • Re:Idiotic (Score:5, Informative)

        by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:26AM (#56352971)

        It's contributing to the bank account of the lawyer who brought the lawsuit.

        Apparently in California an individual can bring a lawsuit "on behalf of the state" and then keep at least some of the damages.

      • Re:Idiotic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by syn3rg ( 530741 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:55AM (#56353147) Homepage
        I'm beginning to think California judges may need a stupidity warning label.
      • Living under California law is hazardous to your intelligence.

        Oh wait. That might be one of those "correlation does not imply" things....

      • Sadly, this is why nobody pays attention to labels that read "this product is considered a carcinogen in the state of California". If they didn't take it to the lunatic extreme, those labels would be *really* useful. But when coffee's on the list, most of us know well enough to ignore the rest of the list by default.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jwhyche ( 6192 )

        Indeed, this is idiotic

        That seems to be the status quo for California. One idiotic decision after another. Constant irresponsible policies by Governor Moonbeam, boarder line treasonous statements by the attorney general, and obstruction of justice by Oakland city mayor. The worse homeless problem in America and almost 1 trillion dollars in public debit. I could go on.

        If the proposed Constitutional convention called by the states ever gets off the ground, maybe one of the things that should be put on the table is the disso

    • It all stems from one law that allowed people to directly vote for whatever they want. Whenever you hear about California proposition something or other it let all the idiots vote to say that handling xmas lights will give you cancer.

    • Just etch "Everything causes cancer--stop using everything' into the lenses of permanent resident's eyes. Visitors will be required to wear ECCSUV glasses at all times. The discussion will then move on to how to warn pets, livestock and wildlife of the grave dangers that surround them.

    • When everything has to have a warning label the labels start being ignored. Maybe it's time to just start saying everything in California causes cancer and call it a day?

      My new camera had a sticker on it saying that this product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. How many Californians are eating cameras these days that such a sticker needs to be on them???

      • I bought a 5' chunk of maple 1x2 and it had the same label.

        Trees cause cancer in California... well now I've seen everything.

        • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @12:29PM (#56353853)

          I bought a 5' chunk of maple 1x2 and it had the same label.

          Trees cause cancer in California... well now I've seen everything.

          Some tree based products CAN cause cancer. No idea if any in Maple can, but the wood was probably something that "causes cancer in California". As long as you use the product somewhere other than California though you're probably safe.

          That's why I haven't moved to California, I don't want cancer.

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @01:30PM (#56354223) Homepage

      Maybe it's time to just start saying everything in California causes cancer and call it a day?

      So, are you saying we should just put a warning label on California? Say, signs at the border. "Warning: Entering may cause loss of mental faculties and common sense. Common symptoms can include, excessive whining, delusions, and denial of reality."

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:10AM (#56352859)

    When are they putting a label on the Welcome to Los Angeles sign on the freeway. Plenty of nasties in that air.

  • yada yada (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sxpert ( 139117 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:15AM (#56352895)

    everything is a carcinogen in california...

    • everything is a carcinogen in california...

      Makes you wonder if it's not California? Perhaps they should just put [May Cause Cancer] warnings on all the "Welcome to California" signs.

    • everything is a carcinogen in california...

      It's kind of true. Good look finding a building that does NOT have a sign telling you it contains materials known to cause cancer.

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Good look finding a building that does NOT have a sign telling you it contains materials known to cause cancer.

        Democracy in action: Proposition 65.

        If you are pregnant, it is best to avoid hanging out in parking structures for long periods of time. Cars and their lubricants produce a lot of potentially harmful fumes. The signs have use.

  • by mehtars ( 655511 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:15AM (#56352901)
    Putting too many warning labels has the habit of making people numb to actual dangers and warning labels.
    • by tippen ( 704534 )
      ^ This. A thousand times this.
    • The key point.

      Government has the problem that they feel (or are pressured) to make everything be treated equally. When everything is a carcinogen, who cares then?

      Risks, issues, problems are not all equal. It's important to have a sense of proportion.

      This plagues our discourse these days. Small symbolic issues advocated by some enthusiast dominate the headlines and attention, at the cost of everyday problems that all of us face (but are not sexy) don't get any proper handling.

      Focus on the imp
    • That's one of the possible effects. I'm concerned that this may lead to another effect. After the warning labels on coffee are required, then uneducated people might stop (or avoid drinking it). This will have a direct effect on sales. Coffee companies will try to regain their original customer base by offering coffee that isn't roasted at all, or is maybe prepared with other chemicals, in order to avoid the labeling. That drink might actually be MORE dangerous than the coffee that we all know and love.
      • Or be driven to other drinks that might be worse, if still highly safe, like soft drinks or diet pop.

        Draining your wallet of $5 for coffee might be more dangerous by making you fractionally poorer.

        A government with its regulatory finger in everything may slow economic progress by making society fractionally closer to a corrupt dictatorship in net effect on investment, thus delaying improvements to length of life a tiny bit.

        Best not to look too deeply into that, though.

    • Exactly this.

      Walk into ANY hotel in California, and there's the required "this facility contains chemicals that cause cancer blah blah blah" notice because somewhere in a cleaning closet there's a bottle of something toxic.

      Walk into a plant that manufactures such chemicals and you see pretty much the same sign.

      Which means nobody reads EITHER of them. Is public health really improved by such signage?

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @12:31PM (#56353863)
      The warning requirement is due to Proposition 65 [wikipedia.org], a citizen's ballot initiative which passed in 1986 (I was too young to vote then, but did my best to try to warn people how stupid it was going to be if it passed). The judge's hands here are mostly tied. According to the proposition, if there are studies which show a material can cause cancer (not just in people but in laboratory animals), then the warning is required. I've often joked that it should be required above every exit door since sunlight is known to cause cancer.

      The warning is pretty much useless now - every store and nearly every product has it so it carries zero information value. The only function it now serves is to enrich a small group of lawyers who go around filing lawsuits against small businesses (mostly owned by new immigrants who have no idea such a silly law could exist) who failed to buy a $5 warning placard to post somewhere in their business. They usually manage to wrestle $2k to $10k from the small business to settle the lawsuit.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @12:36PM (#56353905) Journal

      Putting too many warning labels has the habit of making people numb to actual dangers and warning labels.

      It's not a problem with warnings themselves, but of weighing the level of risk. The labels don't give one any sense of risk degree. Perhaps we need a rating system, similar to movie ratings or Dept. of Homeland Security's "Homeland Security Advisory System" rating colors (which have since been altered in confusing ways).

      By the way, the warnings are required by Proposition 65, which was voted into CA law. It's not meddling gov't, but meddling voters.

      Let's make it better instead of throwing it out.

  • Starbucks targeted (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:17AM (#56352911)
    And why's that? Because the more coffee is roasted, the more carcinogen it has. And why Starbucks? Before heavily roasting coffee is a way to give ordinary cheap beans a stronger flavor.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:18AM (#56352921)

    I really wish we could stop with foods being either "good" or "bad" for you. My guess is even if you actually get the science to say if something is good or bad, the chances are that it's really only very marginally good or bad for you at reasonable/non-OCD intake levels, not so good or bad that it will swing the health of a normal person.

    Even foods/beverages that are demonstrably good or bad for you aren't either in very small amounts. Sugar isn't good for you, but if I ate a glazed donut once a year? It's not going to change anything.

    I'm sure there's some marginal value in looking at high-volume consumption foods like coffee, but at this point people have been drinking it for a couple of centuries and tons of it over the last century and we don't have a plague of people dying from coffee poisoning.

    Other than the obvious lack of utility for "good' and "bad" labels, all it does is encourage people to over-consume "good" foods, needlessly avoid "bad" foods, all magnified by a marketing tsunami of food companies touting their products as beneficial.

    • by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @11:01AM (#56353199)

      Trouble is that the only good food is kale. And kale is inedible.

      Does make an OK packing material if properly dried

    • I really wish we could stop with foods being either "good" or "bad" for you. My guess is even if you actually get the science to say if something is good or bad, the chances are that it's really only very marginally good or bad for you at reasonable/non-OCD intake levels, not so good or bad that it will swing the health of a normal person.

      It's actually more complicated than that since a food will have effects that are both good and bad. Coffee being a good example, as people mentioned coffee has a lot health benefits, but it also has health issues and risks, one of which may be a very slight increase in your probability of cancer.

      The same thing happens with drugs, only moreso. Any useful drug is having an effect on your body, anytime you have an effect you're probably going to have a side effect as well. That's why drug warnings are so commo

  • Oxygen is a known carcinogen. I have it on good authority that bottled water manufacturers knowingly include oxygen in their water with no care for the impact on the citizens of our state.
  • by Ed Tice ( 3732157 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:29AM (#56352995)
    I have no idea why anybody would even litigate this. I have yet to see a single thing there that doesn't have this warning.
  • Causes Cancer in California!

    • WARNING! - Living in the state of California may cause cancer!

      There, done, everything preemptively labeled; as it should have from the very beginning.

      Land of fruits and nuts indeed.

  • After a while people just shrug and say "so what? *Everything* causes cancer."

    Cigarettes cause cancer? So what? Everything causes cancer.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:38AM (#56353047)

    If I were a coffee maker I would make a whole batch of coffee named "Cancer Coffee" with giant "Cancer!!!" warning labels making up the whole packaging. That would stand out and everyone would admire the absurdity of the whole thing.

    Or better yet, a coffee with the judges scowling face on the label, called "JUDGEMENT DAY COFFEE".

  • "the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail."

    Maybe it was instant.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:42AM (#56353071) Homepage Journal

    ... then so does toast.

    Acrylamide isn't an additive. Trace quantities of acrylamide are a byproduct of the Maillard (browning) reaction in certain foods. If you think about it, toasted bread isn't that different from roasted coffee; it's dry heat applied to seed proteins and sugars. People have been consuming it pretty much as long as they've been cooking things other than meat.

  • as potentially lowering some cancers risks? https://www.webmd.com/cancer/n... [webmd.com] Thing is, apart from known classified poisons, nothing is either completely black or white. And in retrospective, it looks like almost any man-made food processing has potentially deleterious effects on human health, cooking/heating being the most common. Then again, cooking and otherwise transforming food is part of what made us evolve into humans.
  • Prop fucking 65. Prop 65 [wikipedia.org]

    All coffee companies will put the warning on all their products. Fucking idiocy.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:52AM (#56353133)

    They should put warning labels on research as well. It has been proven that scientific research causes cancer in rats.

    • They should put warning labels on research as well. It has been proven that scientific research causes cancer in rats.

      Well, the causation is still unclear on that one. It may also be that cancer causes rats, or rats cause research. Who can tell?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @11:00AM (#56353193)

    If everything is critical, nothing is. If everything is important, nothing is. If everything is a carcinogen, nothing is.

    Unless you put a qualifier next to it, it's meaningless because it voids any importance the label could originally have had. There is a difference in how likely it's gonna kill you, and this has to be stressed. Yes, working as a liquidator for Chernobyl, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee are all likely going to cause cancer in you. But one is quite certainly going to kill you quite soon, one is likely to kill you somewhere in the future and one is ... well, we don't know but might kill you ... at some point in time.

    And unless we establish some kind of way to differentiate between them, such labels will lose all meaning they might have had. If I can't avoid doing or eating something that is labeled as "causes cancer", why bother trying to avoid any of them?

  • to cause cancer in laboratory animals"

  • The industry, led by Starbucks, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits.

    The risk is taken by the consumer. The benefits are taken by the industry / Starbucks.

    • Except for the studies showing health benefits from drinking coffee.

      It turns out like everything else, it's complicated.

  • by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @11:09AM (#56353247)

    This sounds to be in line with previous court judgements. Yes your coffee is hot. Put a sign on it.

    Perhaps they should put "Crush danger" on sacks of it. If a big enough bag is dropped on someone from a sufficient height it may injure. After all, how many such bagfulls of this need to be drunk in order to significantly increase the chance of cancer?

    Which kills the most people prematurely per year in the USA - coffee cancer, obesity, air pollution or motor vehicle accidents? Which causes the most across the rest of the planet? Lets deal with all of the dangers buts lets set some priorities, Deal with the ones that cause the most damage first.

    For comparison of importance, which has caused the most questionable election results - illegal immigrants, fraudulent voters, jerrymandering or termites?. We can probably deal with the termites later.

    • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @02:30PM (#56354537)

      This sounds to be in line with previous court judgements. Yes your coffee is hot. Put a sign on it.

      You're alluding to the infamous McDonalds case. On the surface it seems nuts and it may still be a case of a stupid jury reaching a stupid verdict, but there are things about the case that are not known by the general public. I have a good friend who is a lawyer and we talked about this.

      1) McDonalds kept serving coffee at a temperature very close to boiling and about 20 to 30 degrees higher than their competitors. The problem wasn't that some dumb person didn't know that hot coffee is hot but that McDonalds was deliberately serving it at an undrinkably high temperature.
      2)McDonalds received a lot of complaints about the too high temperature of their coffee and refused to do anything about it. They received many hundreds of complaints.
      3)The old lady who got burned did basically accidentally pour it on herself, but the case argument was that had the coffee been at a normal temperature of 20-30 degrees lower like McDonalds competitors served, she would not have suffered devastating burns that required hospitalization.
      4)The lady's attorneys tried to settle the case out of court and McDonalds refused.
      5)The original verdict was reduced by a judge as being excessive and she didn't end up with a million dollars, although she was awarded over $600,000.

  • It's a decomposition product of the roasting bean. They don't pour it in there like some kind of solvent. It's formed when cooking above 120C. Potato chips could probably avoid generating it by cooking at 119C and burn less chips in the process. I think potatoes are fried to remove the water and they lowered the temperature by vacuum frying. Coffee needs to decompose in order to be roasted where potato chips are considered burnt when this happens.

    https://www.coffeecrossroads.c... [coffeecrossroads.com]

  • because coffee contains water.

  • every food processing bears risks. If you cook, it can not be avoided that some unhealthy ingredients are produced. There are pros and cons to every food philosophy. As others have pointed out, the evidence prevails that coffee is beneficial for cancer prevention and has other benefits.
    • by jeff4747 ( 256583 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @11:52AM (#56353585)

      Because the people behind Prop 65 (which created this system) came from two distinct camps.

      One camp wanted to eliminate some pretty toxic things that were commonly found in household products and drinking water.

      Another camp believes in eliminating all "chemicals" because they must be harmful. Otherwise they'd be "natural".

      The former group had a good point. The latter group is the left-wing equivalent of chemtrails believers. But the latter group was necessary to get the proposition passed.

People who go to conferences are the ones who shouldn't.

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