LOS ANGELES — Coffee in the state of California must carry a cancer warning, a judge here ruled, in a blow to Starbucks and other retailers which had argued that a state law meant to protect consumers shouldn’t apply to them.
The proposed ruling Wednesday from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle found that Starbucks SBUX, -0.02% and other companies failed to prove their case that a chemical found in coffee posed no significant harm.
A nonprofit called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics sued coffee sellers in 2010, claiming the presence of acrylamide, a chemical created during the roasting process, is carcinogenic and requires a warning under the state law known as Proposition 65.
After losing an earlier phase of the case, the companies argued at a trial last fall that they should be allowed to come up with an alternative risk level for acrylamide in coffee. Berle said in the ruling the companies “did not offer substantial evidence to quantify any minimum amount of acrylamide in coffee that might be necessary to reduce microbial contamination or render coffee palatable.” He also found the defendants arguments that coffee itself has some health benefit “was not persuasive.”
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