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Companies agree to warning labels over the presence of acrylamide

A protracted and closely watched legal dispute is finally moving towards resolution with 13 companies, including 7-Eleven, recently agreeing to include cancer warnings on the coffee that they sell in California.

The warnings are because of the presence of low levels of the carcinogen acrylamide in the coffee. The agreement was part of a settlement in the case.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2010 by the non-profit Council for Education and Research on Toxics (Cert), centres on California’s Proposition 65 legislation.

That law directed the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and it also required businesses to notify consumers about significant amounts of these chemicals in the products they manufacture, sell or distribute in the state.

In addition to providing the written warnings, Cert wants the coffee companies to pay at least $2500 (£1780) in fines per person for every exposure to the chemical at their stores since 2002

Beyond the 13 companies that have settled and agreed to add the warnings, another nine companies named in the Cert lawsuit – including Starbucks – were to enter mediation on 8 February. If they fail to reach a settlement, then a ruling is expected on the case later this year. If these retailers settle, Cert says about 50 coffee roasting companies would remain as defendants in the case.

‘In the case of coffee, the current legal battle is based on the fact that roasted coffee naturally contains trace amounts of acrylamide, which is also one of approximately 800 chemicals listed under Prop 65,’ the National Coffee Association USA explained. ‘But the implication that coffee requires a “cancer warning label” contradicts the overwhelming real-world evidence,’ the lobby group asserted.