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Citing recent findings by the World Health Organization’s cancer research body, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in California wants to overturn a decision that coffee should bear a health warning.

As recently reported by C&CI, a judge in California recently ruled that, under California’s Proposition 65, coffee companies involved in lawsuits brought by the Council for Education and Research on Toxics had failed to warn customers about acrylamide in coffee and must add warning labels to their products.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said the companies “had failed to prove that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.”

Now, however, the state has initiated a proposed rulemaking to clarify that exposure to acrylamide and other chemicals in coffee do not pose a significant risk of cancer.

Joseph Green a lawyer at Kelley Green Law said “Given the widespread criticism, and even outright mockery, of the need to place a cancer warning label on a product for which there is no evidence of increased cancer risk, the state’s action is a politically astute move.  Arguably, it is a much-needed regulatory adjustment to save the Proposition 65 programme from one of its worst excesses.”

In response to the recent Proposition 65 ruling, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) said it was relying on the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), that “coffee consumption is not classifiable as to its overall carcinogenicity and is associated with reduced risk of certain cancers in humans.”

“While acknowledging that coffee is a mixture that contains a wide range of potentially carcinogenic substances, OEHHA finds that “abundant data on coffee show that the carcinogens in this particular mixture should be viewed differently” than other complex mixtures, such as cigarette smoke and diesel exhaust, for which warnings are required,” Kelley Green law reported.

The proposed rule would adopt a new Section 25704 to the Proposition 65 regulations, entitled ‘Exposures to Listed Chemicals in Coffee Posing No Significant Risk’ and stating simply “Exposure to listed chemicals in coffee created by and inherent in the processes of roasting coffee beans or brewing coffee do not pose a significant risk of cancer.”

Comments on the proposal are due by August 30 and a public hearing will be held in Sacramento on August 16.  Further information on the proposed rulemaking can be found at:

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