FDA supports coffee exemption in California cancer warnings

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

pic:istock/ktsimage
pic:istock/ktsimage

Related tags: Coffee, Cancer, Label, Labelling

The FDA says its supports California's proposal to exempt coffee from Proposition 65 cancer warnings.

Earlier this year a court ruled that Proposition 65 may require coffee sold in California to be labeled with a cancer warning because of the presence of acrylamide. 

But last week FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the FDA would support proposals to exempt coffee from California's cancer warning law. 

False or misleading statements?

In California, Proposition 65 requires a cancer warning on product labels that contain potential cancer-causing compounds. Coffee is reportedly affected by acrylamide, a chemical formed in high-temperature cooking such as roasting coffee beans.

But the FDA says that there is 'inadequate evidence' to establish that coffee causes cancer, also pointing to research that suggests coffee may even reduce the risk of some cancers. 

“Part of our mission in this space means ensuring that food product labeling doesn’t contain false or misleading statements about safety or nutrition” ​Gottlieb said.

“If a state law purports to require food labeling to include a false or misleading statement, the FDA may decide to step in.”

Acrylamide

Gottlieb cites a report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer to support its position on acrylamide and coffee.

“Acrylamide in food forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food," ​he said. "It doesn’t come from food packaging or the environment. In coffee, acrylamide forms during the roasting of coffee beans. Although acrylamide at high doses has been linked to cancer in animals, and coffee contains acrylamide, current science indicates that consuming coffee poses no significant risk of cancer,” ​he said.

The same is true for other food and drink containing acrylamide, like whole grain foods which are generally beneficial for health and nutrition, he continued.

“Labeling whole grain foods with a cancer warning may cause American consumers to avoid foods that would have a benefit to their health, including avoiding foods that may reduce cancer risks,”​ Gottlieb said.

Because acrylamide is present in so many foods, cutting it out in a few instances like coffee would not have an effect on a person’s overall health. The FDA reports that it isn't feasible to totally eliminate exposure to it and recommends that consumers adopt a general healthy diet.

“We’re dedicated to providing science-based information to consumers in an effort to benefit health and nutrition. And we remain committed to ensuring product labeling provides the most factual, easy-to-understand information needed to inform diet selections,” ​Gottlieb concluded.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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