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Furfuryl Alcohol, a Substance in Coffee, Added to Calif.’s Prop 65 List

Beginning Sept. 30, 2017, California is adding furfuryl alcohol to its Proposition 65 list, a state mandate requiring anyone doing business in the Golden State “to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment.”

Furfuryl alcohol is present in numerous thermally processed foods including coffee, fruit juices, baked goods, wine, brandy, whiskey, milk, cooked meat, and ice cream.

Furfuryl alcohol also turns food brown, something known as the Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring the addition of heat. The Maillard reaction also creates flavor. Furfuryl alcohol that forms during the Maillard reaction is not required to have a Prop 65 warning “to the extent a company can demonstrate it is present at the ‘lowest level currently feasible,’” lexology.com reports.

California’s Proposition 65 is a “right-to-know statute” enacted in 1986 as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act but commonly referred to by its original name, Proposition 65. It requires a clear and reasonable warning to California consumers about the possibility of exposure to carcinogenic compounds.

The comprehensive list includes some 800 naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that, according to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, are known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, food, drugs, dyes or solvents are regulated under Prop 65. The regulation also applies if the listed chemicals are used in manufacturing and construction, or byproducts of chemical processes, such as motor vehicle exhaust.

Furfuryl Alcohol Naturally Found in Coffee

Coffee beans are known to contain some of the highest levels of furfuryl alcohol, according to a study on the occurrence of the substance in food and beverages, published in the March 2017 journal Molecular Diversity Preservation International.
But the National Coffee Association is balking at the addition of furfuryl alcohol to the Prop 65 list, saying there’s no scientific evidence linking it to cancer in humans.

“All currently published animal cancer research on exposure to (furfuryl alcohol) is focused on inhalation and not ingestion, making it difficult to interpret whether ingestion could pose a risk like inhaling large amounts of FFA,” the association writes. “The animal inhalation data suggests a link between FFA and nasal tumors and possible kidney toxicity.”

Furfuryl alcohol is but one of hundreds of compounds in coffee, it continues, noting that coffee is cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture as part of a healthy lifestyle “– the first time a food or beverage has been cited individually in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.”

Other compounds found in coffee, according to the National Coffee Association, create “health-promoting and possible cancer-fighting properties” such as a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes as well as warding off dementia and killing leukemia cells in the laboratory.

Proposition 65 Lawsuits

Consumers can file Prop 65 lawsuits against companies who fail to comply with Prop 65 regulations. Although lawsuits must comply with very specific procedures an experienced legal professional can help you navigate the legal system. Successful plaintiffs may receive a monetary award.

If you are interested in learning if you have a case to file a Prop 65 lawsuit, fill out the form on this page for a FREE case evaluation by the consumer protection attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher.

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