As I wrote three weeks ago, the state of California is deliberating whether to list coffee as a carcinogen under its Prop 65 statute. This statute requires the posting of warnings alerting the public to the presence of carcinogenic and toxic substances in food, beverages, consumer products, and the environment. The warning being considered stems from the presence of trace levels of acrylamide, a chemical which is produced during roasting and which may cause tumors in animals when administered at very high doses. As I was informed after posting my article, in fact, there are already warnings posted in coffee shops in California.
Since there is widespread concern about the presence of chemicals in our food and our environment generally, usually at very low levels, the move to list coffee under Prop 65 provides an opportunity to examine a case in which we actually have much more high-quality information to go on than is usually the case.