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Judge Orders Coffee Sellers in California to Put Cancer Warning on Products

FILE - Roasting coffee beans naturally produces a carcinogen called acrylamide. A California judge found that coffee companies must warn their consumers.

A Los Angeles judge Thursday ordered coffee companies to abide by California state law and put cancer warning labels on their products.

A nonprofit group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics is suing such popular coffee roasters and retailers as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. They say the companies fail to warn consumers that roasting coffee naturally produces a carcinogen called acrylamide.

In the first part of the three-phase trial, Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled the coffee companies failed to prove their assertion that there is no significant risk from acrylamide.

In Thursday’s ruling after the second phase, Berle said the companies failed to adequately show coffee is a healthy drink.

“Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health,” he wrote.

An upcoming third phase would decide what civil penalties the coffee companies would have to pay.

Company officials have not yet responded to the judge’s ruling.

Acrylamide forms naturally when such foods as coffee, hot wheat cereals and potatoes are cooked or deep fried.

Most medical studies show no increased risk of cancer from eating such foods.

Some recent studies have shown possible benefits from drinking coffee, including protection against liver disease, some diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.