By now, we'll assume you've read the news out of the California courts last week about how coffee is going to kill us all. Or wait... maybe it's loaded with antioxidants and helps reduce inflammation, leading to longevity in life? What exactly is going on here? Let's start with the basics...
During the roasting process, the seed-beans are exposed to high temperatures in a rotating drum which eventually leads to an exciting chemical change - the "Malliard Reaction." This is when amino acids and sugars do a little dance, it gives coffee that distinctive "brown" coloration, and produces a delightful smell like that of baking bread (same reaction there too).
It's a chemical used primarily in the production of paper, dyes, plastics and water treatment. But it's also found naturally in food that's baked at high temperatures, like potato chips, grain products and coffee. There's been a "behind the scenes" debate for many years over whether or not traces of acrylamide found naturally in roasted coffee should warrant cancer warnings.
In 2015, the World Heath Organization seemingly put the debate to rest. They removed coffee from a list of possible carcinogens, and even found lower rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders and reduced risks of several cancers in regular coffee drinkers.
Last week, a California judge concluded a Prop 65 case against Starbucks (along with several other coffee retailers named in the suit) regarding acrylamide:
“Since defendants failed to prove that coffee confers any human health benefits, defendants have failed to satisfy their burden of proving that sound considerations of public health support an alternate risk level for acrylamide in coffee.”
Prop 65 is the California thing that warns consumers of possible carcinogens with scary labels, like on cigarettes. An appeal by the National Coffee Association (which represents mega-chains like Starbucks) is very TBD, and we'll know for sure within the next week or so if it will indeed be appealed.
Miraculously, we're exempt from having to slap a cancer warning on our product thanks to the "small business exemption" under California Health and Safety Code, Section 25249.11 (b). Basically, since we employ "9 or fewer people," we don't have to comply if this ruling stands.
But, that's not to say it doesn't completely suck for the coffee industry at large. How coffee could possibly get bundled under the same "health warning" category of cigarettes is mind boggling.
This will likely continue to play out in the courts - but until then, we encourage everybody to use common sense. Feel free to drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!