Judge Gives Favorable Ruling for Coffee Roasters and Distributors in Proposition 65 Lawsuit

Maryann Marino
Regional Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Coffee roasters, distributors and coffee lovers received a favorable ruling this week when Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle ended a decade-long lawsuit, ruling that the coffee industry had met their burden of showing that acrylamide, found in that of coffee following the roasting and brewing process, doesn’t cause cancer. 

Now, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has even given coffee lovers and brewers more hope because they recently set standards for processing and roasting coffee beans and brewing coffee at a level  that would pose no significant risk of causing cancer.  This way, if coffee roasters and manufacturers of coffee produce their products within these guidelines, they may have some relief from Prop 65 lawsuit abuse. 

But there’s still work to be done.  Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and our thousands of small business owners who partake in our grassroots movement for civil justice reform, encourage the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to continue their course and take a look at many of the other 900 chemicals on the list of substances deemed by the state of California to cause cancer and reproductive/developmental effects to re-examine and set acceptable levels that do not require a warning. This way, manufacturers will be able to offer products with greater certainty knowing that they meet the guidelines and reduce the fear they will be targets of unwarranted shakedown lawsuits that shatter business and slash jobs.  

This first step will greatly reduce the need for what has become ubiquitous warning signs that are often disregarded, taking away any true warning for the public. Many of the chemicals on the Proposition 65 list are not added to products on purpose. They are naturally occurring, present in plant-based products from the soil they are grown in or become present when a product is heated or cooked, and their presence does not represent a failure to look out for public health. 

OEHHA is proposing new regulations identifying acceptable concentration thresholds for acrylamide in various food products to eliminate unnecessary warnings, which can often scare people in other places who are unfamiliar with Proposition 65. Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) appreciates the work OEHHA has done to fight for these new regulations that will clarify what constitutes an actionable Proposition 65 exposure and deter unwarranted lawsuits. Anyone who wishes to comment on these proposed regulations may do so through October 6, 2020. This is a crucial opportunity for business owners to weigh in on laws that threaten to destroy their livelihood.

We must protect businesses and jobs in the state of California, especially in a post-COVID-19 world where the cloud of uncertainty looms over every decision that business owners make. Clarifying widely abused laws like Proposition 65 will give our small business owners, who are often the hardest working among us, a glimmer of hope.

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