California judge: Prop 65 requires warnings on coffee

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled Wednesday that coffee merchants are liable under Prop 65 for not warning of the possible cancer risks of the beverage. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty noting that the primary problem is with the law itself, jealously guarded by lawyers who make out well from it. Excerpt:

Almost everyone agrees by now that the over-proliferation of warnings makes it less likely that consumers will pay attention to those few warnings that actually flag notable risks. …

What happens next? As the Post reports, “In addition to the warning signs likely to result from the lawsuit, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which brought the lawsuit, has asked for fines as much as $2,500 for every person exposed to the chemical since 2002, potentially opening the door to massive settlements.” And the financial shakedown value here is far from incidental; it’s the very motor that keeps the law going.

Earlier here. See also Michael Marlow, Cato “Regulation,” 2013-14 (study finds “little to no statistical support” that Proposition 65 “significantly influenced cancer incidence in California.”) And a furniture warning via Timothy Lee (link fixed now). More: Omri Ben-Shahar, AICR (evidence that coffee is cancer-protective on net).


  • Ironically, no food has shown a greater reduction in cancer rates and mortality than coffee. We require certain nutrients in low doses that at high doses are toxic or cancerous: iron, selenium, copper, salt, potassium (and others). The whole basis for low-dose extrapolation is wrong. The cancer tests used take extremely high doses of substances because at low doses they can’t detect an effect without using 70,000 mice in the test. But at these high doses the body’s detox mechanisms break down.

    • “We require certain nutrients in low doses that at high doses are toxic or cancerous: iron, selenium, copper, salt, potassium (and others).”

      Even things we require at fairly high doses can become toxic at higher doses, things like water and oxygen.

  • As a member of the affected class l would turn down the $2500. Though it would probably just be a coupon for Folgers instant after the lawyers take their cut. Either way, l’d rather not be involved. Shady practices.

  • Oh, it was fines, not awards. Sorry

  • The furniture warning link doesn’t work (my system, Windows 10 with Chrome).

  • California should probably post signs on all the roads leading into the state: “California considers everything to be a cancer risk.”

  • The judge, along with those who recommended adding coffee to the Prop 65 list, has driven the notion of credibility in California deeper into the ground.

    There is zero evidence that the whole Prop 65 fallout has benefitted anybody other than sign makers and attorneys.

  • California aready considers every one to be a cancer risk. Both males and females of the species naturally produce the sex hormone Progesterone, a substance known to the State of CA to cause cancer. Testosterone is listed. Also Androstenedione, all forms of estrogen and conjugated estrogens (used in hormone replacement therapy), and all oral contraceptives.

    The List (Dec 29, 2017)

    Hopefully, that doesn’t cause you stress – the ethanol in your alcoholic beverage gets a prop 65 warning, as does the Diazepam (Valium) sometimes proscribed for anxiety disorders, as is the anti-psychotic Haloperidol (Haldol). Aspirin is on there too, as is the Pravastatin Sodium now being widely recommended for broad consumption by hypertensives and pre-hypertensive patients begining about middle-age. I’m sure there are other extremely common chemicals either naturally produced by the body or extremely popular (widely proscribed) miracles of modern medicine.

    The Prop 65 “warning” has lost any value it might once have had, its marginal utilty being drowned out by its presence nearly everywhere and on everything in California. Indeed, I’m being only a bit facetious when I suggest it should be tattooed on the foot of newborns as warning to future doctors who may come into contact the carcinogenous body at some future point…

  • What is considered a cancer risk in California is not considered so anywhere else. Perhaps it is California that is the cancer risk.

  • Perhaps this is the time to invoke: “Have you no sense of decency?

  • I wonder if there’s any way of calculating if the additional amount of shipping, trucking, and manufacturing involved in producing Prop 65 warning signs has contributed to any fatalities (using statistics like deaths per mile for commercial drivers, or deaths per hour worked for printers and manufacturers).

    I suspect that if carefully analyzed, Prop 65 has taken more lives than it could have possibly saved.

  • Are the inks/paints/dyes involved in the signs carcinogenic?