Coffee, Acrylamide, and Your Health

A guide to California’s Prop. 65 and ongoing labeling legislation for the informed coffee drinker.

Overwhelming research shows that regular coffee consumption may be linked to a host of potential health benefits, from liver health to longevity. 

Scientists believe that the secret lies in coffee’s complex chemistry: There are at least 300 natural compounds in one green bean, and about 1,000 more created in the roasting process – including  caffeine (of course), antioxidants, and minerals.

Together, the various things that make up coffee create a delicious brew that can be part of a healthy lifestyle. 

However, a long-running lawsuit under California’s controversial Prop 65 regulation has sought  to force coffee companies to include “cancer warning labels” on coffee package labels and in coffee shops.

The case is based solely on the presence of acrylamide, a common chemical compound that occurs naturally in trace amounts during roasting. 

The coffee industry has fought this litigation – which is directly at odds with the overwhelming body of independent scientific research on coffee.

(NCA members can click here to learn more about what the Prop 65 case means to their business.)

Acrylamide & Your Health

Acrylamide is formed at high temperatures as a byproduct of the browning process, and unavoidable in a typical diet. It’s commonly found in foods including French fries, potato chips, crackers, bread, cereal, cooked asparagus, canned olives, and more.

With respect to coffee, acrylamide is produced naturally during roasting. It is not added by coffee companies.

The FDA and other regulatory agencies do not recommend that people stop eating fried, roasted, or baked foods because of acrylamide, but instead recommend adopting an overall healthy eating plan.

(Learn more about coffee as part of a healthy lifestyle, according to the US Dietary Guidelines.)

WHO Says

When it comes to coffee, literally hundreds of independent (non industry-funded) studies conclude that coffee is not linked to cancer – and may even protect drinkers from certain types of cancer.

In fact, after reviewing more than 1,000 scientific studies in 2016, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) concluded that coffee is not carcinogenic. This was a nearly unprecedented reversal for the agency, made in light of the overwhelming evidence.

A number of aspects of California’s Prop 65 rely on IARC’s findings. Therefore, this contradiction between the science and the litigation currently before the courts is being questioned by legal critics, confused consumers – and now even the State of California itself, which in June of 2018 proposed a regulation that would exempt coffee from having to  carry a “Prop 65” warning despite the presence of trace amounts of acrylamide. 

What Does This Mean For You?

If you are a coffee drinker, you can drink up with confidence – and learn for yourself, from the many reputable sources that have evaluated this issue, how coffee is a true “super food.”

If you are a coffee businesslearn more about the current state of the California Prop 65 litigation, and what Prop 65 might mean for your business.

Media inquiries on Prop 65 and coffee may be directed to

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