Coffee roaster responds to Calif. ruling requiring the beverage to be branded with cancer warning

Ristretto Roasters cafe Archive (2012) Ristretto Roasters cafe

A ruling handed down earlier this week says coffee may contain a chemical linked to cancer.

The decision could have a ripple effect outside the state, as coffee sold by stores in California would have to carry the warning label.

In Portland, home to dozens of craft coffee makers, at least one coffee roaster seemed perplexed by the ruling.

“From what I understand, this is just about any food that gets browned,” says Din Johnson, owner of Ristretto Roasters, with regards to acrylamide, the carcinogen in question. 

The California ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the Long Beach-based nonprofit, Council for Education and Research on Toxics.

The group claimed that Starbucks and other companies did not warn consumers that drinking coffee would expose them to acrylamide, a chemical produced in the coffee roasting process.

In his decision, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle wrote that the companies failed to demonstrate that acrylamide does not pose a significant risk.

Said Johnson: “How many health benefits have you seen related to coffee? Every other month there are positive studies on the health benefits of coffee.”

“Obviously, it’s not going to help sales to put something like [a warning label] up. If I go to a restaurant and order a grilled burger, are they going to have to warn me that it’s carcinogenic?”

As to whether Oregonians are going to follow California’s lead, Johnson says, “I’d like to think we do things our own way.”

The defendants in the lawsuit have a few weeks to challenge the ruling.

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is the editor of Oregon Business

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