There is no evidence that coffee causes cancer.
Recently, there’s been a flurry of media activity around a long-pending legal case in California, which could potentially result in mandatory “cancer warning” labels on all coffee cups and packaging. The headlines have been confusing, and sometimes even alarming.
The litigation surrounds a specific piece of California legislation known colloquially as “Prop 65.” If you have ever purchased something very ordinary – sneakers, an artificial Christmas tree, jewelry – and found a “cancer warning” label, you probably came across a mandated “Prop 65” warning. In the case of coffee, the current legal battle is based on the fact that roasted coffee naturally contains trace amounts of acrylamide in coffee, which is also one of approximately 800 chemicals listed as potentially harmful under Prop. 65.
But the implication that coffee requires a “cancer warning label” contradicts the overwhelming real-world evidence.
A recent comprehensive review of coffee by the UN, the World Health Organization concluded that coffee is not carcinogenic, and may even help protect against some types of cancer. Independent scientific studies – meaning, not paid for by the coffee industry – show that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of serious diseases including liver cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and more. Ultimately, coffee drinkers may live longer.
Context is always critical. Coffee is a complex beverage (both compositionally and culturally) – and it’s much, much more than just one of its elements. Pretending otherwise does not serve public interest in any way.
What’s the bottom line?
An adverse decision could affect many across the coffee supply chain – but most critically, it will impact consumers by confusing them about a beverage that the U.S government itself has said can be part of a healthy diet.
As NCA President & CEO William “Bill” Murray told the TODAY Show this week,
“Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage. The US Government’s own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle. This lawsuit simply confuses consumers, and has the potential to make a mockery of Prop 65 cancer warnings at a time when the public needs clear and accurate information about health.”
Watch the Today Show’s story below:
Learn More: Related Reading & Resources:
In California, Where Cancer Warnings Abound, Coffee Is Next in Line, Wall Street Journal
Warning: Too many warning signs are bad for your health, Los Angeles Times
This post is based on a Jan. 25 NCA Member Alert