Search Results for ‘"prop 65" coffee’

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).

Prop 65’s well-oiled lawyer/activist machine

I’m quoted at length in a piece on why California’s Proposition 65, despite public scorn and outrage over cases like the latest on coffee warnings, is so hard to reform.

“The bias is toward listing chemicals just to be cautious even though they probably are not harmful, counting ‘exposures’ such as poker chips and doorknobs that are unlikely to touched in such a way as to transfer relevant amounts of chemicals to the human body, and concentrations that are almost certainly harmless under likeliest-case rather than worst-case scenarios,” Olson said.

The senior fellow said people will nod in agreement when asked if they should be warned of risks to health.

“But every time I start my car and drive it onto the street I create a risk of hitting you as a pedestrian,” Olson said. “Do you have a right to be warned of that risk? Each time, or only once?”

He added the balance of scientific opinion these days leans toward the view that moderate coffee drinking probably provides overall health benefits and maybe even net anti-cancer benefits.

“The idea of putting a cancer warning on such a product is not merely irrelevant to public health goals, but actively in conflict with them,” Olson said.

Much more at the link [Angela Underwood, Northern California Record] And more on the coffee case as well as Prop 65 generally.

“Coffee sold in California could carry cancer warning labels”

“Coffee could carry an ominous cancer warning in California if a nonprofit group prevails in a Los Angeles courtroom.” In a 7-year-old case against Starbucks and others, a group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics “says coffee companies violated a state law requiring they warn consumers about a chemical created in the roasting process that could cause cancer.” [AP/KSBY; more Prop 65 follies]

Prop 65: how serious are Gov. Brown’s reforms?

Not very, fears Bruce Nye at Cal Biz Lit, who notes that “The Chanler Group, the self-described ‘Largest Proposition 65 Citizen Enforcement Law Firm,’ wasted no time in announcing its support for the Governor’s proposals.” Prop 65, of course, is the famous California enactment under which an army of bounty-hunters have set forth to file suits and collect settlements from California businesses for failing to warn of the carcinogenic or mutagenic ingredients in hundreds of common products, from matches (which emit carbon monoxide) to brass knobs to roasted coffee to grilled chicken to billiard cue chalk. Gov. Brown’s reforms omit several stronger recommendations, such as “moving the burden of proof to the plaintiff to show that exposures exceed the applicable no significant risk level (‘NSRL’) or maximum allowable dose level (‘MADL’).”

Most importantly, would the private enforcer bar support Assembly Member Gatto’s AB 227, allowing a company receiving a 60 day notice to avoid prosecution by curing the violation within 14 days? Or better still, Cal Biz Lit’s proposal to allow sixty days to cure violations?

Those measures would be real reform.

More: Amanda Robert, Legal NewsLine.

Californians can’t get Dunkin’ Donuts coffee online

“When consumers in California visit the Dunkin’ Donuts website hoping to order a bag of their favorite java, they are met with the following message: ‘Important Notice: We are temporarily suspending the shipment of orders to California while we work to comply with Proposition 65 with the State of California. We apologize for any inconvenience.'” Acrylamide, a compound naturally present in many roasted or cooked foods, is among the hundreds of substances that must be warned against under Prop 65, which has led, as we noted in May, to a lawsuit against more than 40 coffee companies. [TechNewsWorld] Author Vivian Wagner quotes me:

“The law empowers private litigants to enforce its terms without having to show that any consumer has been exposed to any material or substantial risk, let alone harmed,” Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told the E-Commerce Times. “As a result, entrepreneurial law firms roam the state identifying new, often far-fetched, unwarned-of risks and extracting cash settlements along with promises to warn from hapless defendants.”

“The secretive nonprofit that made millions suing companies over cancer warnings”

Beth Mole at ArsTechnica takes a look at “a little-known nonprofit called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT),” which sued over the lack of California cancer warnings on coffee and has filed many other Prop 65 suits, and its lawyer Raphael Metzger, whom longtime Overlawyered readers have met before. While the organization’s workings have seldom come under scrutiny, one money trail appears to lead to epidemiologist Martyn Smith at Berkeley’s School of Public Health; neither professor nor school responded to Mole’s requests for comment.

Environment roundup

  • EPA reversal on Waters of the United States rule gives power back to states [Andrew Wheeler, Kansas City Star; related Federalist Society video with Donald Kochan and Robert Glicksman; earlier]
  • Even if one concedes that throwaway items generate environmental externalities, it still doesn’t mean laws should ban disposable diapers or other single-use plastics [Ryan Bourne, Telegraph/Cato] “New Jersey Plans a Plastic-Banning Spree” [Christian Britschgi]
  • NYC’s Mayor de Blasio: “we will seize their buildings and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit.” [John Sexton]
  • It’s sometimes claimed that NYC’s unusually high cost of constructing public infrastructure arises from its preexisting infrastructure, geology, and high land values, yet other world cities with tougher challenges in each category build at much lower cost [Connor Harris, City Journal]
  • Podcast: Lynne Kiesling lecture on environmental economics [Cato University 2018]
  • Acrylamide follies: “Bid to introduce cancer warnings on breakfast cereal packaging fails in California court” [Legal NewsLine, from July] After public outcry, state of California acted last summer to forestall possible Prop 65 warnings on coffee [New York Times, earlier]

Most popular Overlawyered posts of 2018

Environment roundup

  • California state agency in charge of Prop 65 enforcement seeks to effectively reverse judge’s recent ruling and exempt naturally occurring acrylamide levels in coffee from need for warning [Cal Biz Lit] Prop 65 listing mechanism requires listing of substances designated by a strictly private organization, spot the problem with that [WLF brief in Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment]
  • Yes, those proposals to ban plastic straws are a test run for broader plastic prohibitions [Christian Britschgi, Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Impact on disabled users, for whom metal, bamboo, and paper substitutes often don’t work as well [Allison Shoemaker, The Takeout] Surprising facts about fishing nets [Adam Minter, Bloomberg, earlier]
  • “A closely watched climate case is dismissed; Will the others survive?” [Daniel Fisher on dismissal of San Francisco, Oakland cases] Rhode Island files first state lawsuit, cheered by mass tort veteran Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) [Spencer Walrath/Energy in Depth, Mike Bastasch/Daily Caller]
  • Meanwhile back in Colorado: Denver Post, Gale Norton, other voices criticize Boulder, other municipal climate suits [Rebecca Simons, Energy in Depth, earlier here and here]
  • Waters of the United States: time to repeal and replace this unconstitutional rule [Jonathan Wood, The Hill, earlier on WOTUS]
  • “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire”: at least nine state AG offices “are looking to hire privately funded lawyers to work on environmental litigation through a foundation founded by” nationally ambitious billionaire and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg [Mike Bastasch]