A new regulation taking effect today, October 1, 2019, may finally put an end to litigation as to whether California’s Proposition 65 warnings are required on coffee due to the presence of acrylamide.  The new regulation states: “Exposures to chemicals in coffee, listed on or before March 15, 2019 as known to the state to cause cancer, that are created by and inherent in the processes of roasting coffee beans or brewing coffee do not pose a significant risk of cancer.”

In 2002, a study out of Sweden found that acrylamide was present in many of the foods we eat.  Acrylamide has also long been identified as a carcinogen by the agency responsible for implementing Prop. 65, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.  Once it became known that acrylamide is in coffee, Prop. 65 enforcement actions against producers and purveyors of coffee sold in California were essentially inevitable.  Dozens of companies were targeted in ensuing enforcement actions.

The push for legislation to counter these enforcement actions was very specific to the central question of whether coffee increases the risk of cancer.  As such, the resulting regulation is targeted only at coffee.  Assuming this legislation survives any legal challenges to its validity, the regulation will hardly be the end of Prop. 65 litigation regarding acrylamide in foods and beverages.  For example, while there are plenty of botanical and processing differences between coffee “beans,” which are the pits/seeds of a stone fruit, almonds, walnuts, and cocoa are seeds that are often consumed after roasting and all continue to be subject to notices of violation for acrylamide.

Since the new coffee specific regulation was approved in early June, just four months ago, there have been almost 800 notices of violation lodged with the Attorney General.  Of those, about 100 have targeted acrylamide in food.  The targeted foods include everything from crackers and chocolate cupcakes, to peanuts and pork rinds.  In short, while one chapter in acrylamide litigation may be closing, the book is very much still being written.

CMBG3 Law has represented clients in matters with warning label issues for many years. Our attorneys in California are well-versed on Prop 65 issues and requirements. Proposition 65 does not lend itself to a one-size-fits-all approach. If you believe that you fall under the regulations of Proposition 65, we recommend seeking legal advice to address your individual situation as the information at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. While we invite you to contact us, and welcome you to do so, contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Gilliam Stewart (email him or 415-957-2322).