Acrylamide, a cancer-causing chemical produced during the coffee-roasting process, was found in Starbucks coffee. And, in theory, a new law in California makes it possible to sue the largest coffee maker in the U.S. for causing cancer.
Starbucks has nearly 14,000 stores in the United States alone and sells a wide variety of coffee to millions of Americans every day. Not long ago, Starbucks was warned about one of the chemicals found in its coffee, and the company may be neck-deep in legal problems from plausible product liability lawsuits.
Fact: Starbucks uses 2.3 billion paper cups per year.
A new chemical warnings law in California has targeted Starbucks and several other coffee-making companies for the use of acrylamide, a carcinogen produced during the coffee roasting process.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer and you are a regular customer at Starbucks, you may want to consider filing a product liability lawsuit against the company to recover damages. “However,” our San Francisco product liability attorney at Allegiance Law warns. “Doing so will be incredibly difficult.”
Stricter requirements for tougher warnings, named Proposition 65, went into effect on August 30, 2018, which requires brewers and other companies doing business in California to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning to consumers about potential exposure to chemicals that have been identified as cancer-causing chemicals by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
The OEHHA list of chemicals that requires clear and reasonable warning labels includes not only acrylamide and other carcinogens, but also the chemicals that are known to cause birth defects, reproductive toxicity, and other harm to human health.
Under California law, businesses are legally required to warn their customers of the potential risk of cancer and birth defects if their products contain a chemical that exposes people to carcinogen or birth defect-causing chemicals. Also, the law makes it possible to sue companies for their failure to provide such a warning under the condition that the plaintiff provides the defendant with a notice of intent to sue 60 days prior to bringing a lawsuit.
Under a new California law, businesses and companies whose products contain chemicals known to be causing cancer or birth defects are required to provide warnings that are more detailed and more prominent. As such, the warning must consist of a triangular yellow warning symbol with the name of the chemicals that exposes consumers to health issues.
Although the new law in California makes it possible to sue companies that fail to comply with the law and provide “clear and reasonable” warnings, the warnings are not the main goal of the chemical warning law. Authors of Proposition 65 have said it time and time again that their goal was to encourage companies to reformulate their products to eliminate the dangerous chemicals, not warn about them.
Starbucks and other companies are expected to react to the new law the same way Coca-Cola and PepsiCo reacted to it, according to Bloomberg Law. These companies will quietly change their chemical formulas to avoid having to put those scary-looking warnings on their products that could potentially scare away their customers.
And once they do so, they will most likely not issue a press release saying something along the lines of, “Dear customer, we have just removed a cancer-causing chemical from our products, and yes, you have been exposed to the risk of cancer by buying our products all these years and will not be able to sue us for it. Bye.”
To find out whether or not you can sue Starbucks for causing cancer or other health problems, consult with a San Francisco product liability attorney at Allegiance Law. Schedule a free consultation by calling our offices at 415-404-6395.