Bad news, coffee lovers. A Los Angeles judge has ruled that Starbucks and almost 90 other coffee sellers did not properly disclose the fact that there is a potentially toxic compound being produced in the roasting process. According to BBC, they are now being required to carry a cancer warning.
What is being produced in the roasting process is called acrylamide: a chemical compound that occurs naturally when cooking processed foods.
According to Cancer.gov, "Acrylamide levels in food vary widely depending on the manufacturer, the cooking time, and the method and temperature of the cooking process. Decreasing cooking time to avoid heavy crisping or browning, blanching potatoes before frying, not storing potatoes in a refrigerator, and post-drying (drying in a hot air oven after frying) have been shown to decrease the acrylamide content of some foods."
As their website explains, coffee is not the only place we are exposed to acrylamide. Traces of it can be found in french fries, potato chips, cookies, bread, breakfast cereals, canned black olives, prune juice and tobacco smoke as well.
The Council for Education and Research on Toxics sued Starbucks in 2010 and stated that the company needs to properly disclose the fact that this potential carcinogen is in their coffee. They also want Starbucks to lower the acrylamide content in their coffee to a safer level.
The National Coffee Association revealed that the industry is considering an appeal. They said in a statement, "Cancer warning labels on coffee would be misleading. The US government's own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle."
This statement is actually backed up by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans! They said that "strong and consistent evidence shows that consumption of coffee within the moderate range...is not associated with increased risk of major chronic diseases." Their suggestion of a moderate range includes up to 5 cups of coffee per day.
Some companies have already agreed to settle and post the warning label in store, but others are still willing to battle the lawsuit.
It appears that we encounter traces of acrylamide almost every day in our lives, whether it is through coffee or other means.
At the moment, the court ruling to require a warning label only applies to California. However, this could change over time depending on research into its harmful properties. You might want to think twice before grabbing your next cup of coffee on the way to work!