On March 29, 2018, the Washington Post reported a ruling by California Superior Court Judge Ehilu Berle indicating consumer coffee packages must warn consumers that toxic substances in brewed coffee may pose significant cancer risks.  More in line with the scientific evidence, a 2016 World Health Organization action removed coffee from its list of cancer causing foods after extensive scientific review.   Our own review suggests the California ruling is not supported by scientific evidence and may discourage consumers from accessing positive benefits of coffee consumption.

The particular cancer causing material in question is acrylamide. Acrylamide is present in many foods at much higher concentrations than coffee. For comparison, according to the National Coffee Association, potato chips contain almost 600 ug acrylamide/kg while coffee contains on average 8 ug/kg. Coffee acrylamide levels are 1,000 to 10,000 – fold below those used in animal studies demonstrating that acrylamide causes cancer.


The spectrum of opinion in the scientific community, outside of the California judiciary, ranges from slightly positive with no significant concerns to positive regarding the comprehensive health benefits of coffee consumption.   The American Cancer Society presents a neutral-positive opinion citing potential benefits for prostate, endometrial, mouth, and throat cancers. A British Medical meta-analysis in 2017 is more positive regarding coffee’s benefits indicating an across the board mortality reduction. According to the American Coffee Association, studies consistently demonstrate that coffee consumption reduces a number of health risks including cancer.

One note, individuals with a history of high blood pressure may consider their coffee intake as studies show coffee consumption may elevate blood pressure.  The increased blood pressures were not explained by caffeine alone, but were likely due to  multiple coffee components — Harvard Medical School.  A Kaiser Permanente study of over 130,000 individuals found reduced prevalence of heart arrhythmias associated with coffee consumption. However, some individuals may experience rapid heart rate or nervousness with coffee consumption.  As always, listen to your body or your healthcare providers.

Coffee’s health benefits are thought to be due to its antioxidant activities. In one antioxidant assay, Nashin and co-workers demonstrated that coffee had 5-fold more antioxidant activity than a cup of green tea and 3-fold the activity of a glass of red wine.

O-caffoylshikimic Acid – One of coffee’s anti-oxidants.

Further, Global Washington presents several examples of how that coffee sales benefit poorer economies and accelerate economic development. Coffee from small farms and cooperatives is available from online from retailers such as Sweet Marias or FreshRoastedCoffee.com.

Outside of California, its very hard to assess the intricacies of the California judiciary. However, for those of you who love coffee, you can drink up without worrying about increased cancer risks. In fact, you might just live longer.