A judge in California has ruled that coffee retailers, including Starbucks, must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle wrote in a decision on Wednesday that coffee companies had failed to show that a carcinogen produced in the roasting process posed no significant threat.
“Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health,” Berle wrote.
The coffee industry had claimed the acrylamide chemical was present at harmless levels, and should be exempt from the law because it occurs naturally in the cooking process needed to make the beans flavourful.
Starbucks and other defendants now have until April 10 to appeal the ruling.
The lawsuit against some 90 coffee retailers was filed in 2010 by the Council for for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT).
In a statement responding to the ruling, the National Coffee Association said the industry is considering all options, including appeals and further legal action.
“Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage. This lawsuit has... confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health” said the group’s President and CEO William Murray.