The caffeine dependent in California may want to opt for a cup of tea instead of that espresso as a Los Angeles judge has ruled that coffee companies in the state must note the presence of acrylamide, a cancer-causing chemical produced in the roasting process.
The chemical falls under the state’s Prop 65 rule that requires companies to clearly label the presence of carcinogens.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled on Wednesday in favor a non-profit that sued close to 100 coffee retailers in the state, including Starbucks. The lawsuit alleged that the coffee companies were violating the Prop 65 rule by not disclosing the presence of the chemical acrylamide, found in high levels in coffee.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2010 by the nonprofit the Council for Education and Research on Toxics. The suit asked for coffee companies to pay fines of $2,500 per person exposed to the chemical since 2002. “Any civil penalties, which will be decided in a third phase of the trial, could be huge in California, which has a population of nearly 40 million,” reports Reuters.
Lawyers for Starbucks aimed to show the court that acrylamide levels in the chain’s coffee were below cancer-risk levels. It failed to prove that point, according to the court. And in the trial’s second phase, defendants were unable to prove “alternative” risk levels for acrylamide. The chemical has also been linked to dangers for fetuses and the male reproductive system.