Not to be a downer, but swinging into our fave coffee shop and enjoying that carefree feeling of pre-work euphoria may become a little stickier. California may soon be putting warning labels on their coffee. Nothing like a health warning to get you going in the morning.
The culprit? Acrylamide. It’s a cancer-causing chemical used mainly in certain industrial processes like food packaging and treating wastewater. It’s also a natural byproduct of the roasting (including coffee) process. And according to the American Cancer Society, it’s also not uncommon to find trace amounts of the carcinogen in many pantry staples.
Acrylamide can also form in some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.
Acrylamide doesn’t appear to be in raw foods themselves. It’s formed when certain starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures (above about 250° F). Cooking at high temperatures causes a chemical reaction between certain sugars and an amino acid (asparagine) in the food, which forms acrylamide. Cooking methods such as frying, baking, broiling, or roasting are more likely to create acrylamide, while boiling, steaming, and microwaving appear less likely to do so. Longer cooking times and cooking at higher temperatures can increase the amount of acrylamide in foods further.
It’s not even clear if acrylamide in food raises cancer risk. And according to the ACA, since acrylamide was first discovered in certain foods back in 2002, “there are currently no cancer types for which there is clearly an increased risk related to acrylamide intake.”
According to the LA Times, the lawyer taking on the coffee industry, Raphael Metzger, said the bigger picture is not to punish coffee shops, but to get the industry to remove the chemical from coffee completely.
“I’m addicted — like two-thirds of the population. I would like the industry to get acrylamide out of the coffee so my addiction doesn’t force me to ingest it.”
Related Story: Nitro Vs. Cold Brew Coffee: What’s The Difference?
The Council for Education and Research on Toxics has been pushing for a state-wide mandate on coffee warning labels since 2010, even though it’s been proven that the low level of acrylamide in coffee does not pose any health risks, unless you drink 100 cups a day. As absurd as warning labels at Starbucks may sound, the coffee industry is actually on the losing end of this argument and needs to win this next round at trial, which resumed September 25.