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A baffling new order passed by a judge in Los Angeles, saying that Starbucks and some 90 other coffee sellers have not warned customers about the presence of a toxic compound called Acrylamide which is produced when coffee is roasted, has been causing a furore among coffee lovers around the world.

What is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a toxic compound which is created when starchy food is roasted, grilled, or fried for long periods of time at very high temperatures.

The National Cancer Institute reveals that coffee is a big source of acrylamide, which is also found in potato chips, bread, breakfast cereals etc,. It also mentions on its website that acrylamide content in food varies and “people are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food.”

Studies in animals found that the chemical causes tumours. This suggests that it also has the potential to cause cancer in humans.

The Origin Of The Ruling

The ruling has originated from a lawsuit which was filed in the year 2010 by the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, a tiny non-profit organisation based in Long Beach, California. The group said that coffee companies like Starbucks and 91 other coffee sellers did not warn consumers that drinking coffee could expose them to toxic chemical acrylamide, which is formed when the coffee beans are roasted.

The ruling said that all coffee sellers have to pay fines of up to an amount of $2,500 each for every person who has been exposed to acrylamide in the state of California since the year 2002. In the subsequent phase of the trial, it will be determined what exact penalties have to levelled, with some of them agreeing to settle and put up warnings about the presence of acrylamide

Obviously the coffee sellers, led by Starbucks, a member of the powerful National Coffee Association, whose other members include Dunkin’ Donuts, have said that they are “currently considering all of its options, including potential appeals and further legal actions.”


Indians love their daily fix of tea and coffee and this decision is understandably going to cause ripples all across the world and will be in India as well.

We will watch this space with great interest!


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