As CMBG3 Law previously reported, a Los Angeles Superior Court in March of this year determined that a Proposition 65 action brought by the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (“CERT”) against sellers of “ready-to-drink coffee” could proceed, with the Court later finding the the evidence presented by the coffee makers was not sufficient to meet admissibility standards. While no hard evidence was presented that acrylamide in coffee causes cancer, the result of the ruling was that coffee would have to carry a cancer warning under Prop 65. This week, however, the court held that before it entered an injunction requiring such a warning, he would entertain arguments that a rule being considered by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which implements Prop 65, that would stipulate that coffee does not need a warning.

An attorney for Starbucks and the other defendants argued that an injunction would require not only whether coffee was required to have a warning label, but also the specific size, font, location and other details of warning labels — which would necessitate a time-consuming factual determination by the court. As a result, the companies argued, it made no sense to undertake that type of determination if the OEHHA would then issue a statement indicating that no warning was required on coffee.  

In granting the defendants’ motion for a stay in the proceedings, the court set a date of September 6 for hearing on various arguments, including the motion for an injunction requiring a warning label. 

The Office of Environment Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) has indicated recently stated that “exposures to Proposition 65-listed chemicals in coffee that are produced as part of and inherent in the process of roasting coffee beans and brewing coffee post no significant risk of cancer.”  The OEHHA noted that “extensive scientific evidence shows that drinking coffee has not been shown to increase cancer and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.”  According to the Food & Drug Administration, acrylamide has caused cancer in animal studies at very high doses.  The FDA has also previously reported that the amount of acrylamide found in brewed coffee is generally less than 12 parts per billion.  The OEHHA described coffee a “complex mixture of numerous chemicals” that includes both carcinogens and cancer-preventing antioxidants. 

 CMBG3 Law LLC has represented clients in products liability matters, especially with respect to warning label issues, for many years. Our attorneys in California are well-versed on Prop 65 issues and requirements. We provide the most current legal advice to our clients by staying on top of developments in science, medicine, and regulations regarding a wide variety of substances and products used by consumers every day. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact John Gardella (email him or 617-279-8200).