A barista pours steamed milk in a coffee at a cafe in Los Angeles. Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle has ruled that California law requires coffee companies to carry an ominous cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process. Judge Berle wrote in a proposed ruling that Starbucks and other coffee companies failed to show that the threat from a chemical compound produced in the roasting process was insignificant. At the centre of the dispute is acrylamide, a carcinogen found in many cooked foods, that is produced during the roasting process. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

California Judge: Coffee needs cancer warnings

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California law requires coffee companies to carry a cancer warning label.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said in a proposed decision Wednesday that Starbucks and other coffee companies failed to show the threat from a chemical compound produced in the coffee roasting process was insignificant.

A non-profit group had sued coffee roasters, distributors and retailers under a state law that requires warnings on a wide range of chemicals that can cause cancer. One is acrylamide, a carcinogen present in coffee.

The coffee industry had claimed the chemical was present at harmless levels and should be exempt from the law because it results naturally from the cooking process to make the beans flavourful.

Proposed California judicial decisions can be reversed but are reversed rarely.

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