Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

Despite a recent California ruling, you shouldn't give up your morning habit anytime soon

Last week, a California judge ruled that coffee companies will be required to carry a cancer warning label on all of their products, the Associated Press reports. The ruling affects any business with more than 10 employees, who will have to carry the warning due to acrylamide, a by-product of the coffee-roasting process that's part of the state's list of possible carcinogens.

The verdict came after the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) sued Starbucks and 90 other coffee retailers on the grounds that by existing state laws, warnings are required on products with a prevalence of toxic chemicals. The companies named in the suit have a few weeks to file objections before the ruling is finalized (although stores such as 7-Eleven have already settled, ponying up as much as $900,000). An impending third phase of the lawsuit could determine civil penalties of up to "$2,500 per person exposed each day over eight years."

But is your morning habit really a cause for concern?

The National Coffee Association has responded by saying, "The U.S. government's own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle," while also referencing the World Health Organization's own claims that coffee doesn't cause cancer. The lawsuit "does nothing to improve public health," William Murray, president of the association, says.

And while acrylamide is indeed on California's list of carcinogens, it's yet to be actually proven to cause cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there's been no hard evidence for a "carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee." Forbes adds that you'll also find acrylamide in other widely eaten foods like french fries and potato chips.

The lawsuit, as NPR notes, is more of a money grab than anything: Metzger Law Group, which is representing CERT, previously sued both fast-food and potato chip companies on the same grounds, forcing restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King into settlements and agreeing to putting warning labels on their french fries. One lawyer is even questioning why both CERT, a nonprofit, and Metzger Law Group share the same address. 

So in the meantime, keep drinking your morning macchiatos.