7-Eleven has agreed to pay $900,000 in penalties, $355,000 in costs, and also to post signs to settle a Prop 65 lawsuit alleging its coffee contains cancer-causing chemicals.
A Prop 65 coffee lawsuit hit several major coffee retailers alleging the companies should warn consumers about the presence of acrylamide in coffee drinks.
The Council for Education and Research on Toxics lodged the complaint against 7-Eleven, Starbucks, Walmart, Costco, and approximately 70 other companies.
According to the Prop 65 coffee lawsuit, acrylamide has been listed as a possible carcinogen and listed as a hazardous chemical under the law. The chemical is found in roasted coffee beans, as well as other food products.
Shape.com reports that acrylmide is “a substance formed in all baked, toasted, roasted and fried foods by a reaction between sugars (naturally occurring or added) and the amino acid asparagine.” The chemical, which forms a crystal, is also credited with making cooked foods take on their golden-brown color and crunchy texture.
7-Eleven has agreed to provide warnings in the form of posted signs about acrylamide in prepared coffee at its convenience stores.
The Prop 65 coffee lawsuit has been litigated over a number of years. In 2014, defendants attempted to argue that the chemical presented “no significant risk,” but that argument was shot down by U.S. District Court Judge Elihu Berle.
7-Eleven is now arguing that their prepared coffee products should be exempt from the warning requirement. They say that Prop 65 provides an exemption for chemicals produced by cooking food “necessary to render the food palatable or to avoid microbiological contamination.”
Judge Berle approved the proposed 7-Eleven settlement. Previously, a BP PLC subsidiary agreed to settle the claims by paying $675,000.
The Prop 65 coffee lawsuit contends that consumers should be warned about the potentially cancer-causing chemical contained in coffee.
Under Prop 65, otherwise known as the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, companies that use chemicals that have been identified as cancer causing or harmful to human reproductive health or known to cause birth defects are required to warn consumers or remove the chemical from their products.
Although acrylamide is found in numerous food products, the plaintiffs in the Prop 65 coffee lawsuit argue that consumers should be warned and given a choice about whether to risk ingesting the chemical.
Since the chemical is produced as a byproduct of food and drink preparation, it is very difficult to remove from foods; however, those who are concerned can turn to alternative cooking methods at home, such as grilling or steaming to reduce acrylamide content.
Plaintiffs also point out that Prop 65 warnings have been posted in a variety of places, including on parking garages and companies who use this chemical should be treated no differently.
The consolidated Prop 65 lawsuits are Council for Education and Research on Toxics v. Starbucks Corp., et al., Case. No. BC435759, and Council for Education and Research on Toxics v. Brad Barry Co. Ltd., et al., Case No. BC461182, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
If you are concerned about a hazardous chemical contained in products you use, consider contacting an experienced Prop 65 attorney. The attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher are currently investigating Prop 65 claims.
Note: Bradley/Grombacher is not representing the plaintiff in this lawsuit.