A California court case could potentially rule coffee as cancerous. California, in November 1986, passed proposition 65, the Safe Drinking water and toxic Enforcement Act after Californian voters approved it by a 63-37 percent margin. This proposition "protects the state's drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and requires businesses to inform Californians about exposures to such chemicals." Over the last 30 years the list has grown to 900 chemicals, including acrylamide.
Acrylamide can be found in tobacco smoke and is also the byproduct of some foods when they are cooked by methods that require very high temperatures such as baking, frying, or roasting. However, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) noted that while studies with acrylamide done with animals were consistent with an increased risk of cancer, studies done with humans did not show increased risks of cancer. The NCI also reported that people are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.
California is now putting science into the court's hands to decide whether to add it to proposition 65, in which case it will be deemed cancerous. If it is ruled to be a carcinogen, all retailers of coffee will be required to have signage stating so, just as retailers all over California currently do with the numerous products that contain any of the 900 chemicals listed in proposition 65.