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Does Coffee Cause Cancer? California Is Telling Java Drinkers Not to Worry

Can you read the fine print of a cancer warning before you’ve had your morning coffee?

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) figures you shouldn’t need to.

On Thursday, the agency is hosting a public hearing on its proposal to exempt coffee from a Los Angeles judge’s March order to include cancer warnings on coffee.

The warnings fall under Proposition 65, a California voter proposition dating to 1986 that requires companies to inform consumers of any chemicals on the California list of cancer-causing agents. Acrylamide, a chemical produced in the coffee roasting process, has been on that list since 1990 due to studies in rodents, reports Knowable Magazine.

A meta-review of studies of coffee’s effects on humans last year reported a generally positive effect. Coffee contains less acrylamide than many other foods, especially foods that have been heated directly or fried, such as toast or French fries.

But Proposition 65 doesn’t require a causal link between the final food product and cancer in order to require a warning label.

So OEHHA has taken a different legal tack: it is citing a June 2018 report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that finds that coffee as a whole is not classifiable as carcinogenic and that it reduces the risk of certain cancers.

An OEHHA’s spokesperson told The New York Times that, “There’s a danger to over-warning—it’s important to warn about real health risks.”