As it stands right now in California, all sales of roasted coffee are meant to come with a carcinogen warning because it contains acrylamide, a chemical that is a natural byproduct of the roasting process. For shops, this means posting some sort of signage stating coffee to contain carcinogens, and for roasters it means putting a cancer warning on their retail bags. This is due to a court ruling back in March where a judge ultimately decided that the coffee industry didn’t do enough to prove that the trace amounts of naturally occurring acrylamide aren’t toxic. It’s like innocent until proven guilty, but y’know, the exact opposite. As you might expect, this didn't sit well with coffee companies in the Golden State, nor did it jibe with current research on the presence of the carcinogen in coffee.
But now, according to the New York Times, the State of California is intervening on the behalf of coffee (and general sanity). In a public hearing taking place today, August 16th in Sacramento, a government agency is proposing a new rule declaring that “not only does coffee pose no significant risk of cancer, it may actually have health benefits.”
The reason for the new rule is two-fold. One, there is a preponderance of evidence showing coffee to actually be healthful, which the Times politely refers to as “more comprehensive scientific research.” And two, the State is worried that a growing number of cancer warnings—some like the less-than-rock-solid ones aimed at coffee—will desensitize consumers to actual, serious health risks.
“There’s a danger to overwarning — it’s important to warn about real health risks,” said Sam Delson, the deputy director for external and legislative affairs of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. This is the same office put out a statement recently stating that the carcinogens “inherent in the processes of roasting coffee beans and brewing coffee pose no significant risk of cancer.”
For now, the public hearing is the first step. As the article notes, California coffee companies are in a holding pattern to see how everything shakes out, but the new proposal is expected to be approved by the end of November, when finally and but for a brief moment, sanity will win out.