Junk science: California calls coffee 'cancerous'

People have been enjoying and drinking coffee for thousands of years and recent health studies suggest it's rather good for you, but now, all of a sudden, the State of California claims it has "science" to support the notion that coffee causes cancer.

That's why some numbskull judge ruled that now all coffee must carry warning labels, same as dreaded, dangerous, cigarettes, warning everyone of cancer and attempting to get at least some people to stop. Can you say: 'judiciary out of control?'

Associated Press reports:

A Los Angeles judge has determined that coffee companies must carry an ominous cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process.

Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that Starbucks and other companies failed to show that benefits from drinking coffee outweighed any risks. He ruled in an earlier phase of trial that companies hadn’t shown the threat from the chemical was insignificant.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, a nonprofit group, sued Starbucks and 90 other companies under a state law that requires warnings on a wide range of chemicals that can cause cancer. One is acrylamide, a carcinogen present in coffee.

What this activist suit and consequent judicial overreach represent is a sort of medicalization of food, nanny-state-style, as if food itself were some sort of toxic medicine, full of side effects, instead of a combination of risks and rewards, all ameliorated by moderation of use. And this judicial order to label coffee as cancerous is hideously disproportionate - the same sorts of carcinogens criticized in the coffee roasting process found in minute quantities can also be found in roasted peppers and bacon, too. Now coffee  joins the ranks of all the other things that can possibly cause cancer, along with air pollution and BPA water bottles and building materials, many of which also carrry warnings yet change no behavior and improve no one's quality of life. Now coffee needs to carry the explicit warning label, as if we would all like to buy a product full of as many warnings of side effects as an advertised prescription medicine on television, and as if those labels actually give any useful context or probability of cancer. It's nonsense, because people who do get cancer rarely ever know what actually causes it. What's more, as oncologists will tell you, none of these risk factors, not one, have anything like the predictive power of getting cancer as genetics do.

Yet some judge, working with some activist groups, has somehow teamed together to force companies to label coffee as cancer-causing. More so than the medicalization of food, this amounts to the politicization of food. The most dangerous widely used food, after all, is not coffee, but probably sugar, as Gary Taubes points out in his new book. But since the sugar lobby has lots of power in political circles, you'll never see any judicial warnings on that particular product.

It not only makes our food supply less appetizing, it also amounts to a shakedown, as this passage in the AP story shows:

The lawsuit was brought under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, passed by voters in 1986. It allows private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the state and collect a portion of civil penalties.

The law has been credited with reducing chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects, such as lead in hair dyes, mercury in nasal sprays and arsenic in bottled water. But it’s also been widely criticized for abuses by lawyers shaking down businesses for quick settlements.

What I'd like to know is how this activist group that launched the lawsuit got so much clout in political circles, and who is financing them. Of course the shadowy group doesn't have a website, so one must rely on other research. One lawyer argues that these activists have considerable conflicts of interest in one of their other cases. Once we know who is financing them, we will know why poor old Starbucks got targeted as a threat to some other product's rice bowl.

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