No, Starbucks Coffee Won't Give You Cancer

But California regulations will let people sue your coffee roasting business into oblivion.


Anthony Devlin/ZUMA Press/Newscom

At a glance, warning people about substances that can cause cancer seems like a sensible way to protect the public health. California's Proposition 65 requires companies to inform their employees and consumers if their products expose them to "chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm." But as so many regulations do, the 1986 ballot initiative wound up leading to some really stupid labeling requirements and predatory lawsuits. The latest example is a ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle requiring coffee roasters in the state to label their products as potentially carcinogenic due to the presence of a naturally occurring chemical called acrylamide.

Acrylamide forms upon heating in many foods, particularly starchy ones like french fries and potato chips, but also coffee, chocolate, certain breads, certain teas, black olives, and prunes. It won't hurt you, because humans seldom consume any carcinogenic foodstuff in the massive quantities that induce cancer activity in rats.

I repeat, you should not be worried about coffee cancer, no matter what California requires Starbucks to print on your cup. As The Washington Post reports, rodents can develop cancer from acrylamide, but only when fed "rates 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than what humans consume in food." And coffee is not even the chief culprit! That would be potato chips, in which "the highest acrylamide concentrations were measured in thousands of parts per billion, much lower than the levels that cause cancer in lab animals."

There are other chemicals on California's Prop. 65 list that you probably shouldn't worry too much about. Pyridine was added in 2002, yet the U.K. Health Protection Agency reported in 2010 that there is no evidence it causes cancer in humans, and In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe was unable to find any evidence supporting its toxicity as recently as 2017. The Prop. 65 list also contains, uh, "wood dust." What does that mean, exactly? Where do you affix the label—to the offramp sign at the state visitor center?

You should worry if you're a California business, because Prop. 65 lawsuits tend to look a lot like shakedowns. The Starbucks lawsuit closely resembles a 2002 suit filed against McDonald's and Burger King. After six years, McDonald's and Burger King settled, agreeing to warn consumers about acrylamide in their french fries, as well as to pay civil penalties to the group that brought the suit. And attorney's fees. Lots of attorney's fees.

Both suits were brought by the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT), which is organized as a nonprofit. Except I can't find any information about CERT on Charity Navigator or Guidestar. According to attorney Nathan Schachtman, the nonprofit at one time shared an address and contact information with the Metzger Law Group, the law firm that filed both the McDonald's suit and the more recent Starbucks suit. In other words, one could be forgiven for suspecting that CERT was set up by trial attorneys in order to create a plaintiff that could bring Prop. 65 lawsuits against California companies.

"Californians are so inured to Proposition 65 warnings that the ubiquitous signage has become meaningless," former Burger King CEO Jeffrey Campbell wrote in 2016. "The rate of cancer in the state is no different than any other, suggesting that the warnings have no impact. In 2015 alone, companies paid more than $26 million in Proposition 65 settlements and suits. But the trial lawyers are the real winners. They take home about 70 percent of all money paid by businesses."

Google "prop 65 lawsuit" for a glimpse of a gross ecosystem of legal eagles who specialize in suing business owners who presumably haven't spent enough money on compliance officers. Wells Fargo even offers Prop 65 insurance, and helpfully notes in its brochure that "[i]ndividual plaintiff awards are one-fourth of the civil penalty paid by the defendant"—meaning the rest goes to the suing law firm.

All that said, your odds of getting cancer from something are remarkably good. The average U.S. male has a 39 percent chance of developing some type of cancer at some point in his life, and the average U.S. female has a 37 percent chance. But you probably won't get it from coffee, or the aspartame you sweeten it with.

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  1. #BuildTheWall #AroundCalifornia

    1. Preach!

  2. The number one cause of cancer is old age.

    1. Then old age should be OUTLAWED, damn it!!!

      1. Just a matter of time.

        1. Renew! Renew! Renew!

          1. And the great reference award goes to…. Colossal Douchebag!

      2. Did you check your palm for a blinking light?

  3. ‘No, Starbucks Coffee Won’t Give You Cancer’

    No, but it will give you a sense of superiority.

    1. Not in California. Too many local single source fair trade coffee houses for Starbucks to cop an attitude towards.

      1. +1 Philz mint latte

    2. Free internet and accessible power outlets make it a great place to work when I’m not at home. Get a cup of dark roast and camp out for three or four hours. Sip some good Joe and get paid at the same time. And the music is usually pretty good.

      1. But can you light up?

        1. No, it’s not like that coffee shop I would go to twenty five years ago where I could get a cup of coffee and a single clove cigarette. This place had several chess sets, so I’d find a random person to play a game with. By the time the game was over, so was the coffee and smoke. Time to go.

          Now clove cigarettes are illegal. Selling singles is illegal. Smoking indoors is illegal. At least coffee and chess are still legal.

          1. Man, I remember when cloves and other flavored cigarettes were made illegal. The store I managed was next to a college campus, and so it was a real and legitimate hit upon our sales. But at least something… something… the children.

            1. What was the name of the adult video store that you managed, BUCS?

              1. Slow and Low – That is the Tempo

                1. Hey, that’s the nickname for my sense of humor.

          2. Now clove cigarettes are illegal.

            Goth chicks hardest hit.

            Seriously, WTF.

            1. They’ve been illegal for more than 5 years. All flavored cigarettes are. You can still get clove cigarillos though, at least you could in AZ. Maybe that’s illegal too now.

              1. My lungs hurt when I think about smoking those things. Still, in a free country it should be a choice.

                1. Sounds like you don’t care about how tobacco companies use clove cigarettes to trick 5 year olds into smoking.

                  1. That’s what bidis are for. Or so I’m told.

              2. Not menthol. That would be racist. Although I think that not banning menthol was also racist.

                  1. That’s OK. A natural source of menthol makes it some kind of hippy organic “stuff white people like” shit, so banning it isn’t racist.

          3. No, it’s not like that coffee shop I would go to twenty five years ago where I could get a cup of coffee and a single clove cigarette

            Check out aging Gen X over here.

            1. If you are talking about Citizen X, he is a Millenial.

              1. My response and quote was to Sarcasmic.

                There’s no millennial who was smoking clove cigarettes in a coffee shop 25 years ago.

                1. Well most definitely 21 years ago. At least by pews definition.

            2. Check out aging Gen X over here.

              Good deduction Mr Watson.

              1. Good deduction Mr Watson.

                Thank you. It was the clove cigarettes that gave it away, really.

      2. Lost me at good Joe part. To me, Starbucks coffee tastes burnt (and over priced)

    3. ‘No, Starbucks Coffee Won’t Give You Cancer’

      No, but it will give you a sense of superiority.

      More like it will give you an upset stomach and a foul taste in your mouth. Not only is it shit, it’s *expensive* shit.

      1. I like their coffee.

      2. Now tell us what beer you hate.

        1. IPAs.

  4. No, Starbucks Coffee Won’t Give You Cancer

    No, but reading articles from roughly half of Reason’s Staff probably will.

      1. Are you a dramatard?
        If you are, you won’t be offended. If you aren’t, well… you should check it out.

  5. “chemicals that cause … reproductive harm.”

    Including ethanol?

    1. Ethanol is also responsible for an awful lot of reproduction.

      1. Basically my point.

      2. When I get high on ethanol I can crank out flyers on my mimeograph machine ALL NIGHT LONG

        1. Will you also be Dancing On The Ceiling?

      3. Ethanol is also responsible for an awful lot of reproduction.

        Ergo, directly or indirectly, culpable in causing plenty of birth defects as well.

        1. The solution is signs in every maternity ward. “WARNING: Being born is known to the state of California to cause birth defects.”

          1. So, 50/50 on the profits from “WARNING: Being born in the state of California is known to cause birth defects.” t-shirts and bumper stickers?

            1. Yes. Also tote bags, dog sweaters, and baby onesies.

              1. Crusty would rock that baby onesie.

    2. “chemicals that cause … reproductive harm.”

      So that means we should be encouraging the snowflakes and progressives to drink MORE?

    3. Here is the list of Prop 65 substances. Ethanol and ethyl alcohol are both listed, for cancer and developmental disorders respectively.

  6. Starbucks’s coffee-flavored milkshakes will, however, give you the beetus.

    1. I don’t know how anyone can drink that shit. If I cut it thrice, ’tis still too sweet for me.



    The stupid law requires it for any business that uses chemicals. Because chemicals cause cancer. Clean the floor with Pine-Sol? Put up a cancer warning. Saccharin sweeteners in the break room? Put up a cancer warning.

    Welcome to California, where people are scared of life and demand the government protect them from it.

    1. Pave Paradise, put up a cancer warning.

      1. Parking lots cause cancer.

        1. Some mouth cancers, from the backseat Hummers.

    2. Clean the floor with Pine-Sol?

      Another reason I use Fabuloso.

    3. “The stupid law requires it for any business that uses chemicals”

      If the businesses don’t want to use chemicals, they don’t have to.

      1. That’s probably not actually possible. Even if you have a fully robotic group, there are probably chemicals going on. If you got humans involved, then there is a shit ton of chemicals raging around.

        1. even robots require oiling which causes cancer

      2. Yeah, a coffeeshop can get by just fine without dihydrogen monoxide, acrylamides, and aromatic hydrocarbons.

        1. “Yeah, a coffeeshop can get by just fine without dihydrogen monoxide,”

          A coffee shop can get by just fine with warning labels.

          1. That has nothing to do with your vapid and pointless original comment.

            1. I should have included a warning label.

              1. You actually did:

                mtrueman |

                1. But you continued to read regardless. A good lesson for the starbucks hand wringers, ie despite the warnings, coffee will continue to be consumed at starbucks.

                  1. But you continued to read regardless. A good lesson for the starbucks hand wringers, ie despite the warnings, coffee will continue to be consumed at starbucks.

                    Not before lawyers extract a nice big check out of them. I trust you’ll be compensating Citizen X.

                  2. If there is a warning on everything, the warning will loose all effect and become ignored. That’s why people still read mtrueman’s comments.

                    1. loose clothes, lose your shirt.

                    2. Ok, grammar Nazi, obvi a type. It should have said “loosen.”

                    3. No, that’s wrong too.

                      “The warning will loosen all effect”?

                      No, you were going for “lose” there and fumbled it.

                    4. That’s the joke, dummy.

                  3. The problem is the lawsuits, dipshit. The law enables people to sue for things that cause absolutely no harm to anyone.

                    1. “The law enables people to sue for things that cause absolutely no harm to anyone.”

                      It’s actually judges who decide if the lawsuits have merit and are worth pursuing. Elect new ones if the current ones are inadequate.

                    2. OK, so you are deliberately missing the point. Never mind. Sorry I bothered.

                    3. If constantly deliberately missing the point was a piano, mtrueman would be considered a bold and exciting new talent.

                    4. What is the point? You don’t like labels? Propositions? Lawsuits? Lawyers?

                    5. “The problem is the lawsuits, dipshit.”

                      What lawsuits are you referring to? Any that are before the courts in the real world? Or just imaginary ones?

      3. How are you going to comply with health and food safety regulations if you can’t use chemicals to clean up the place? It’s a catch-22.

        1. The chemical in question at Starbucks isn’t even a cleaning substance. It’s something that naturally forms in tiny amounts in coffee beans when they’re roasted, which you might recognize as an integral part of making coffee. But force-feeding a thousand cups’ worth of acrylamide to rats made them sick, so everybody freak out.

          1. But force-feeding a thousand cups’ worth of acrylamide to rats made them sick,

            Without reading the study; I’d put even money on the fact that they’re rats predisposed to getting sick/cancer too. Lots of different things cause lots of different cancers in different doses and you can’t study them all individually. So you interbreed rats with high rates of various cancers and use the offspring to cover your bases. The rats are virtually guaranteed to develop cancer before they die. You just divide them into test and control groups and declare any association in your test group not found in the control group to be causative.

          2. But force-feeding a thousand cups’ worth of acrylamide to rats made them sick, so everybody freak out.

            Save time and trouble; force-feed them 5 cups of Starsucks coffee, it’ll make them puke as well.

            1. Actually, rats are physically incapable of puking.

          3. But man oh man, did those rats ever break all the maze solving records.

        2. You can use chemicals, you just have to list them.

      4. If the businesses don’t want to use chemicals, they don’t have to.

        Since all matter in the universe is composed of chemicals, no they can’t.

      5. Everything in nature is made of chemicals.

      6. “If the businesses don’t want to use chemicals, they don’t have to.”

        Can’t. Tell. If. Sarcasm.

    4. At this point those signs have not meaning. The whole thing is just make-work for a bunch of bureaucrats. No one cares. Apparently California is awash in so many tax dollars that they can afford to waste money on this farce.

  8. So I guess this means the Kochs have significant shares in Starbucks stock.

  9. There is a part of me that just wants to give up an watch Rome burn. Watching Progtard Starbucks take it in the shorts because Progtard California judge does entertain me, even though it is offensive.

    1. You are a schadenfreudist..

    2. Give up what? Do you really think you have any significant influence on where things are going?

      1. My Facebook shared of these articles have generated at least six likes.

  10. I rolled my eyes when I heard the new harping on coffee giving you cancer. There are carcinogens in literally everything.

    1. Oxygen is highly corrosive as well as flammable. I can’t wait until CA starts putting warning signs on air.

      1. And water, although they are pretty good at restricting access to it.
        Water is a very corrosive agent, looking a the grand canyon.

    2. “There are carcinogens in literally everything.”

      Forewarned is forearmed.

      1. Forewarned that the only sure way to avoid cancer is to put a bullet in your head. Very useful.

        1. Nobody is forcing you to read these offending labels or visit establishments where warning labels are displayed.

          1. a). Not relevant.
            b). Somebody is forcing people to display these labels.
            c). These labels are entirely useless, except as a payday for ambulance chasers.

            1. a) relevant
              b) not just anybody. California’s legal system.
              c) and label makers too

              1. If the law says it, it must be right.

                Sounds better in the original German.

                1. Promote your own proposition if you think that’s the right thing to do. Run for office, organize your neighbours. You shouldn’t need me to be telling you how to combat Germanism.

        2. Forewarned that the only sure way to avoid cancer is to put a bullet in your head. Very useful.

          *cocks head, rocks hand*

          Not all cancer kills you and plenty of cancer that does kill you can take decades to do so. If you’ve got a prostate or a cervix and have gone through puberty, odds are you have at least *some* cancer.

      2. In this case, that really isn’t true. The warnings are on so many businesses and products that the information is absolutely useless. And most of the warnings warn you against things that won’t harm anyone in the concentrations present. So the warnings will simply be ignored by most sensible people and cause needless fear and worry in people prone to that sort of thing.

        1. ” The warnings are on so many businesses and products that the information is absolutely useless.”

          You should propose a proposition that restricts warning labels to information you deem useful.

          1. Are you really this stupid, or are you playing some game here? The labeling is actually counterproductive because it makes it harder for people to tell which products may actually be dangerous or harmful.

            1. mtrueman doesn’t make points, they make non-sequiturs; this individual has repeatedly stated in the past that they have no point in posting beyond just saying unconnected things. Responding is truly a waste of time.

            2. ” it makes it harder for people to tell which products may actually be dangerous or harmful.”

              How do they manage to do that? Are they written in classical Chinese?

              1. Playing a game, I see.

                BYODB seems to have nailed it.

                1. I thought that ‘the problem was lawsuits,’ now it’s the labels themselves that are ‘dangerous and harmful.’

        2. which then tends to lead people to ignore the warnings on everything including things that are dangerous in any amount things like mercury and lead and smoking etc.

          1. You are free to ignore the labels or better yet, avoid shops selling things with labels.

    3. You know what else causes cancer? Being a rat. That’s why you should never talk to the police.

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  12. What California needs to do is mandate that every exit door, even residential, has a sign that says something like
    and then list off every fucking thing that could possibly go wrong.
    Think of all the lives it would save.


      1. STEVE SMITH is the answer to “What’s the worst that could happen?”

        1. Accepting that was originally the first stage of grief, but the polite society just didn’t talk about STEVE SMITH back then.

          1. The existence of a shaven sasquatch who rapes was awfully hard for the public to swallow. In many ways.

            1. The public simply can’t handle that much semen.

            2. Some consider me to be a libertine, but in some ways I miss those halcyon days.

    1. “Virginia Beach: And You Thought The Dirty Myrtle Was Bad…”

      1. Fact: this particular 7-11 is located not far from the Aragona Village neighborhood, which was developed in the ’50s as part of a Mafia money-laundering scheme and is now one of the East Coast’s main Juggalo hotspots.

        1. Fact: that particular 7-11 is always out of men’s compression bras.

        2. Question: Is there a Juggalo hotspot that’s not on the East Coast?

          1. Here ya go.

            As I was typing “Juggalo hotspot” into Google, the first suggestion that came up was “juggalo hotpocket.” I was too scared to find out what that is.

            1. Thank you… booking a flight to Oklahoma city now.

            2. “I was too scared to find out what that is.”

              Misdemeanor sexual assault in most states would be my guess.

          2. Their hometown is Detroit, but I can also confirm they were big in Tucson.

            I remember when they came to “Too Stoned” Arizona on 4-20. It was an exciting day at the fair grounds I imagine.

    2. on Pleasure House Road

      Of course.

    3. “Police interacted with her hours before the bomb threat and determined she was not a threat.”


    4. I prefer to treat people as individuals and not pre-judge them based on looks. In this case, however, I am willing to make an exception.

      1. You know how some animals have garish colors or elaborate projections on their bodies to warn others to stay away?

    5. If you’re going to be crazy, at least be hot. Rule.

      1. You aren’t turned on by danger? I mean, based on her teardrop tattoos, she’s claiming to have committed at least five murders.

        1. I’m incredibly turned on by danger. But can’t be just… danger by itself. You have to have something else on offer, if you get my meaning.

          Two women, one’s a 9, but she’s as sane and level headed as a glass of warm milk. The other’s a 6, but crazy as a bag of cats. Guess which one I choose?

  13. Taking something with some kernel of truth to it to silly extremes might not be something totally apt for the people on this blog.

  14. I was in one of the “Everything is a Dollar” stores in SoCal. Literally every shelf had a Prop 65 warning sticker. Clearly, it was easier to just put up the damn signs than try to determine what is or is not on the list.

    1. Won’t be long until someone is sued for being too cautious.

    2. I thought they only needed one sign at the entrance? I worked a hotel in CA once and the sign was at the front desk. It was fun having to explain that nonsense to every out-of-state guest.

    3. Someone should sue the maker of those Prop 65 warning stickers. I am sure at least one chemical used to make those stickers is carcinogenic, so the stickers should have a warning on them.

      1. Someone should sue the government of California until prop 65 warnings have to be put on all official California documents. I’m sure there’s something in paper or ink that causes cancer if you stuff a rat with it.

        1. What if they were to send one of those documents out of state? If everything in CA is contaminated then it would be like getting a letter from your cousin who lives in Pripyat.

    4. Except, with the new rules, they’re going to be required to list the substances individually.

  15. CERT reminds me of an organization called the Disabled Patriots of America that appeared in New Jersey one day an initiated ADA public accommodation lawsuits against multiple New Jersey municipalities, including one of my clients. The lead plaintiff was allegedly a woman from northeastern Ohio who did not want to disclose her home address for “personal reasons,” and apparently had never been seen by any other human being. She provided a laundry list of allegations, including the curious claim that the urinals in the Police Department men’s room did not allow sufficient room for wheelchairs to maneuver. I asked for her deposition to explain what she was doing in a police department men’s room. The court granted my request. The plaintiffs withdrew their lawsuit the very next day.

    1. This is amazing. If there’s more to the story (or anything else you can share), hit me up! This beat seems like it has some amazing stories.

  16. Kind of funny that the SJW attacks have come around to bite Starbucks after all the lefty causes that company supports.

    1. What’s “SJW” about Prop. 65?

      It’s old hippie chemophobic BS, not new Social Justice BS.

    2. Shouldn’t be surprising at all.

      No matter what the stated ‘motives’ it’s always and everywhere first and foremost a shakedown.

  17. “rodents can develop cancer from acrylamide, but only when fed “rates 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than what humans consume in food.”

    Not only this but they also raise rats that are predisposed to getting cancer in order to speed up the testing process. the whole thing is a sham

  18. “And attorney’s fees. Lots of attorney’s fees.”

    Can you just change the headline to this?

    sort of like Radley Balko’s, “Another isolated incident“: reports on police-shootings of unarmed people?

    Its more succinct, and serves to remind people that the point of many lawsuits is simply “to create opportunity for more lawsuits”. – and that politicians and judges are complicit in this money-sucking racket.

  19. My favorite Prop 65 moment was when they were trying to force owners of airplanes (all airplanes) to put placards around the fuel caps to warn of the cancer-causing dino juice within.

    Gee, do you think the guy going out for a fun flight in his Cessna is unaware of the lead and other bad things in the leaded fuel he’s adding to the tank? Are there truly people who spend their careers on this inane bullshit?

  20. Are there truly people who spend their careers on this inane bullshit?

    There seems to be a lot of money to be made, so of course there are.

  21. If you want help complying affordably with the revised Prop 65 rules taking effect soon, contact me at or

  22. In an episode of Mary Hartman, a scientist did an experiment to find out if leisure suits cause cancer by dressing lab rats in leisure suits. Doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

  23. “The Prop. 65 list also contains, uh, “wood dust.” What does that mean, exactly? Where do you affix the label?to the offramp sign at the state visitor center?

    Prop. 65 is stupid, yes.

    But it’s also true that in industrial contexts some wood dusts seem to cause some sinus cancers; it’s not even clear if it’s “the dust” or “the way the dust makes mucus transport less effectively”, perhaps letting other carcinogens remain in-situ longer.

    Prop. 65’s problem is that it makes warnings so omnipresent that they’re simply ignored, but even under its requirements there’d be no “wood dust warning sign” at the entrance to the state, since even Prop. 65 requires some minimum calculated risk level, even if it’s a ludicrously conservative one.

  24. No food has been show so conclusively to REDUCE cancer and mortality as coffee.

  25. Look at the file photo leading this article. The aluminium from which that Mokka Pot is made are far more dangeous than the chemical “accused by the state of Crazyfornia” of causing cancer. Aluminium is closely linked to Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. But Crazyfornia only have warnings about things that might, in super high megadoses, be somewhat distantly connected with cancer in labratory mice. BIG DEAL……..

    Remember, California is the state that put that strange waste byproduct chemical in their gasoline, and that stuff was well known to be dangerous to humans. It was very stable, too, not breaking down during combustioin inside an engine. SO anything stated by the State of California”s government is suspect on its face. I’d be curious to know just how much ransom is paid on an annual basis to get faux plaintiffs to shut up and go away. Then, knowing the lawers get three times that… can anyone else smell a racket?

  26. This judge’s decisioin is bogus… he said he found for plaintiffs because defendants did not PROVE the chemical in question is actually safe, as found in coffee.

    Sorry, but in any civil action at law, it is the PLAINTIFFS that must establish, in this case, two things: First that the named chemical DOES exist in the place stated. And Second, that that chemical IS harmful, and that Third it is in sufficiently high concentrations as to pose an actual danger.

    Judgy Wudgy has put the burden of proof on defendant parties, but in law that burden rests on Plaintiffs. Judge cannot change that. HE needs to be disbarred and debenched.

  27. Reading about California causes cancer.

  28. Aspartame does cause cancer. Dr. Adrian Gross, FDA Scientist, who originally investigated aspartame told the Senate on 8/1/85 that aspartame was illegally on the market because it violated the Delaney Amendment which says you can’t approve anything you know will cause cancer. He said further that aspartame without a shadow of a doubt caused brain tumors and brain cancer and that the FDA should not have been able to set an allowable daily intake. Three Ramazzini Studies showed aspartame to be a multipotential carcinogen. Industry tried to attack because of it and the head of the committee with the European Food Safety Authority resigned, Dr. Herman Koeter, saying they were pressured by industry to hijack science., Then a study by Harvard said their study was the longest and strongest showing the same types of cancer including leukemia. Dr. Betty Martini, D.Hum, Founder, Mission Possible World Health Intl

  29. Wait a minute…. granted….STARBUCKS COFFEE SUCKS….but real coffee has to many good health effects. And it’s natural. Look at the rich source of antioxidants. Another moron regulation from California. Who would have thought.

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