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Is California Overruling State Court's Coffee Ruling?

It's probably minimizing things to say so, but a dispute over a new coffee regulation seems like a tempest in a teapot.

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment says coffee does not pose a cancer risk. It's controversial because California Superior Court recently said retailers must include cancer warnings on coffee products.

Naturally, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are upset. But for the millions who line up for Starbucks everyday, it's really just another day.

Another Day

It was an eye-opener, however, when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge said coffee poses a cancer risk in Council for Education and Research on Toxics v. Starbucks Corporation. The decision was based on an eight-year-old lawsuit under Prop. 65, a ballot initiative passed in 1986 that requires disclosure of suspected carcinogens.

The coffee industry didn't quite know what to say after the decision, but California regulators did: Stop the presses, we've updated our regulations!

"The proposed regulation is based on extensive scientific evidence that drinking coffee has not been shown to increase the risk of cancer and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer," the agency said.

Raphael Metzger, who won the state supreme court case for the advocacy group, wasn't buying it. "The whole thing stinks to high hell," he said.

Another Cup of Joe

Whatever it is that stinks, the coffee/cancer debate exposed an underbelly in the daily commodity. Research has teetered between the sides, and profits have been weighed in the balance.

According to reports, the same advocacy group won a case against Burger King with similar claims. The plaintiffs said french fries posed a cancer risk, and won $1,250,000 -- plus $700,000 in attorney's for Metzger -- in 2007.

The good news was, at least the coffee was safe.

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