A California judge's ruling has given coffee consumers a major jolt, by demanding every cup of joe be labeled with a cancer warning. But the research behind the cancer risk of drinking coffee is not too strong. Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle made the ruling Thursday.
Although roasted coffee beans contain a carcinogen -- acrylamide -- it's unclear whether the levels are high enough to pose a health risk to humans, according to previous medical studies. And if acrylamide causes cancer, it also would affect overly cooked or roasted starchy foods.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association said acrylamide is found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average U.S. diet, including coffee beans, french fries, potato chips, breakfast cereals and toast.
It's also found in cigarette smoke. It wasn't until 2002 that scientists discovered the chemical in food. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food.
Berle temporarily supported a lawsuit against several large companies, including Starbucks, Whole Foods, 7-11 and others for serving coffee with the chemical.
The ruling is based on California's Proposition 65, which requires businesses to warn customers if a product contains a chemical linked to cancer. That includes acrylamide.