US judge affirms coffee warning ruling

A California judge has ruled that all coffee sold in the US state must carry a cancer warning.A court ruling that gave coffee drinkers a jolt earlier this year has been finalised with a Los Angeles judge saying coffee sold in California must carry a cancer warning.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled on Monday that Starbucks and other roasters and retailers had failed to show that the benefits of drinking coffee outweigh any risks from a carcinogen that forms during the roasting process.

This followed a written decision he made tentatively in March.

A non-profit group sued about 90 coffee companies under a California state law that requires products containing cancer-causing chemicals to be labelled.

The coffee industry did not deny that the chemical acrylamide is in coffee, but argued it was at harmless levels meaning their products should be exempt.

The latest ruling means the Council for Education and Research on Toxics can seek a permanent injunction that would either lead to ominous warning labels or an industry commitment to remove the chemical – as the US potato chip industry did when sued by the same group.

Lawyer Raphael Metzger, who represents the non-profit, said he hopes mediation will lead to settling the eight-year long case.

If no agreement is reached, another phase of trial would determine civil penalties as high as $US2,500 per person exposed each day since the suit was filed in 2010.

“In all the years I’ve been practicing, I’ve never had a case that got to this point,” Metzger said.

“They’ve lost all their defences and we proved our case. The only issues left are the nature and form of the injunction and the amount of penalties to be assessed. It’s not a pretty place for them to be.”