Scientific Research on Cancer Risk Misrepresented

Date: March 28th, 2018

Agency: CA, State

Explanation: Bias and Misrepresentation

Scientist: Other

On March 28, 2018, the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles ruled that state law requires retailers to include a cancer warming on coffee. The Court ruled that the warning is required because coffee contains a chemical called acrylamide which, at high doses, has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats. Most scientists agree, however, that the small amounts of acrylamide in coffee and other foods do not pose a cancer risk. The scientists emphasize that the lab rats developing cancer were dosed at rates 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than what humans consume in food. They also note that research suggests that the human body does not absorb acrylamide at the same rate as rodents and that humans metabolize the chemical differently.

UpdateOn June 18, 2018, it was reported that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) had determined that coffee poses no significant risk of cancer. OEHHA proposed new regulations that would remove the requirement for cancer warnings on coffee.

On August 29, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote to OEHHA urging it to adopt the proposed regulations. The FDA stated that, “[a]lthough acrylamide at high doses has been linked to cancer in animals, and coffee contains acrylamide, current science indicates that consuming coffee poses no significant risk of cancer.” The FDA also noted that the latest scientific research suggests that coffee may reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer.