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No matter what you think of Prop 65, the voters of California passed it. That means that when a company sells or exposes California consumers to something known to the state of California to be a cancer or birth defect causing agent, those companies have to warn consumers.
Sounds like a good law for consumers, and a relatively difficult and burdensome one for businesses. But recently, this mainstay of California consumer protection has been in the national spotlight due to the fact that a judge ruled a few months back that coffee companies are required to provide the prop 65 warnings for coffee because coffee contains one of the California "known cancer causing ingredients." This caused the entire coffee drinking (and caffeine addicted) world to recoil in disbelief. In fact, studies were done to show that coffee is actually healthy and prevents some cancers or something, and state lawmakers almost immediately moved to overrule the court.
Guess what? In the court case where coffee companies were told to put prop 65 warnings on their coffee, the companies did not dispute the fact that the chemical in question is in coffee. Nor was it disputed that the chemical is a known cancer causing agent.
What was argued about was whether the low levels of Acrylamide, a byproduct of roasting coffee beans that's been recognized as a carcinogen for nearly 30 years, posed a significant enough risk to merit a prop 65 cancer warning sign. Sadly, for coffee drinkers around the world, Starbucks, and a whole lot of other big names in coffee, failed to do so. And while the World Health Organization may be okay with coffee, this is California, where the rules are set for the rest of the world to follow (thanks to the marvelously large economy).
Interestingly, while there seems to be widespread support for the California lawmakers that are actively in the process of passing legislation to exempt coffee from getting a prop 65 warning, there's one critical piece of the puzzle missing: there's a chemical in coffee that causes cancer. Even if ubiquitous warning signs cheapen warnings, what's the alternatives, trust mega-corporations with making decisions to protect the public health?
Disclosure: I drink coffee ... often.
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