A California court case may result in every one of the state’s coffee cups featuring a cancer warning, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal on Wednesday reported that a state judge in Los Angeles is expected to rule on the issue in the coming months.
The judge will decide whether coffee should be labeled as carcinogenic under a three-decade old law which is meant to warn Californians about potential harms.
Coffee is under consideration for a warning label due to acrylamide, a flavorless chemical produced during the roasting process.
Acrylamide is one of more than 900 chemicals on a list of those known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
The chemical also created during the cooking process for many baked and fried foods, including bread, french fries and potato chips.
Businesses must warn about the presence of any of the chemicals because of the measure, known as Proposition 65.
The coffee case has been unfolding since 2010, when a Southern California nonprofit sued dozens of coffee sellers and manufacturers.
The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, backed by attorney Raphael Metzger, filed against such defendants as Keurig Green Mountain and Starbucks.
The defendants argue the trace amounts of acrylamide are harmless and outweighed by the health benefits of consuming coffee.
The coffee companies lost an initial phase of the case years ago, and they then made their final defense in a bench trial last autumn.
The defendants charged that the amount of acrylamide in coffee should qualify as safe under a limited exception to Proposition 65.
The exception exists for certain chemicals produced by cooking that are necessary to make food palatable.
A few of the case’s defendants have bowed out, with 7-Eleven agreeing late last year to pay $900,000 and put up the warning in its locations.
Other defendants – like Starbucks – have posted Proposition 65 signs near the cream and sugar stations in their stores.
Those companies could ultimately be forced to pay hefty fines and display the signs more prominently or directly on their coffee products depending on the judge’s ruling.