Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle decided that Starbucks and the other retailers, per Reuters, “failed to show there was no significant risk from a carcinogen produced in the coffee roasting process.” The California judge’s rules also affects McDonald’s Corp., Dunkin’ Donuts, Peet’s, and countless other coffee sellers operating in California. The original lawsuit called for fines as big as $2,500 for every person’s exposure to the chemical since 2002.
This was the third phase of the trial, as Starbucks lost the first phase where it was decided that the company did not show the level of acrylamide in coffee was below the threshold that would pose a significant risk of cancer. Additionally, in the second phase of trial, the defending coffee companies did not prove there was an acceptable “alternative” risk level for the carcinogen, or in other words, harmless levels of risk for the carcinogen.
Many defendants in the case settled before the decision and agreed to not only post signage, but pay millions in fines. The other retailers, like Starbucks, have until April 10 to file an objection to the decision of the Los Angeles judge. This suit could send waves throughout the coffee industry if this suit takes hold in other states, where it would become a public health matter.