Coffee Lawsuit Says Prop 65 Requires Cancer Warning

A nonprofit alleges in a new lawsuit that cafes and coffee shops need to warn consumers about potentially dangerous cancer-causing chemicals found in coffee.

According to the lawsuit, under Prop 65, cancer warnings need to be included in California cafes selling coffee because of a dangerous chemical the nonprofit says is produced during the coffee bean roasting process. The plaintiff, The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, lodged the Prop 65 complaint against 7-Eleven, Starbucks Corp., Wal-Mart, and Costco, and approximately 70 other companies.

coffee bugsAccording to the lawsuit, acrylamide has been listed under Prop 65 as a possible carcinogen. Acrylamide is found in roasted coffee beans, as well as other baked, toasted, roasted and fried food products.

The Council alleges that consumers should be provided a cancer warning about the potentially dangerous chemical included in their morning beverage. The California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, commonly known as Prop 65, requires companies who use chemicals that have been identified as causing cancer or harmful to reproductive health or known to cause birth defects are required to warn consumers and/or remove or reduce the amount of the chemical from their products.

Acrylmide, according to a report in, 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.

Although acrylamide is found in numerous food products, the plaintiffs contend that consumers should be provided a cancer warning and given a choice about whether to risk ingesting the chemical. The plaintiffs say that they would prefer companies reduce the amount of acrylamide, but unfortunately, the chemical is very hard to remove because it is produced as a byproduct of food and drink preparation. Those who are concerned can turn to alternative cooking methods at home, such as grilling or steaming to reduce acrylamide content.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs also point out that Prop 65 cancer warnings have been posted in a variety of places, including on parking garages, and coffee shops and other companies who use chemical should be treated no differently.

The plaintiffs are also seeking fines to be levied against the companies for failure to post cancer warnings about the coffee they provide.

The Prop 65 lawsuit has been extensively litigated. Several defendants have settled the claims, most recently, 7-Eleven who agreed to pay $900,000 in penalties and $355,000 in costs. The company also agreed to post cancer warnings at its California locations. Previously, a BP PLC subsidiary agreed to settle the claims by paying $675,000.

If you are concerned about hazardous chemicals contained in products you use, consider contacting an experienced Prop 65 attorney. The attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher are currently investigating Prop 65 claims – contact today.

The Prop 65 Coffee Lawsuit is Council for Education and Research on Toxics v. Starbucks Corporation, et al., Case No. BC435759 in the Superior Court of the State of California For the County of Los Angeles, Central Civil West.

Note: Bradley/Grombacher is not representing the plaintiff in this lawsuit.