Trouble Brewing for Starbucks

  • Sumo
coffee steam 1, by flickr user waferboard, licensed by Creative Commons.

Totally worth the risk.

Studies have shown that up to 2 cups of black coffee per day can have a positive effect on the human body. Well, those days may be over. A non-for-profit group in California has filed a lawsuit against a number of coffee companies, including Starbucks, about health warnings on all products solid within the state. A little known chemical in coffee, acrylamide, can apparently cause cancer. Acrylamide is created during the brewing process when coffee beans are roasted. Though many experts agree that the actual risk of getting cancer from coffee is incredibly low, a judge ruled that Starbucks (among other companies) failed to include any type of warning or information of risk on cups of coffee sold.

The lawsuit was originally filed back in 2010, by the non-profit called CERT (Council for Education and Research on Toxics). Many feel that a cancer warning on a cup of coffee could be misleading, as several studies prove that small doses of coffee have good health benefits. Fines are reported to be up to $2,500 for each cup of coffee sold without proper warning. Other companies, such as Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, and Peet’s were also not providing warning labels on coffee, although Starbucks seems to be taking the bulk of criticism. The Seattle-based chain, founded in 1971, refused to comment on the situation, which recently completed the second phase of the trial.

This case seems oddly similar to the “hot coffee” lawsuit that McDonald’s fell victim to several years back. In that situation, a woman spilled coffee on herself and then filed a lawsuit, claiming there was no warning label explaining the temperature of the drink she just ordered. While it seems obvious, there is a certain level of legal responsibility that companies should be held accountable for. What will be interesting is the impact of coffee sales in California and if people actually decide to drink less coffee due to a minimal health risk. Truthfully, getting into your car and driving on the 404 is more risky than a tall pike roast with room for milk. Hopefully Starbucks doesn’t get roasted.