Coffee brands fight California ruling on cancer warnings

THE coffee industry is fighting the suggestion its products could cause cancer.

A Los Angeles judge’s recent ruling in a lawsuit over cancer labels has galvanized coffee brands and retailers, including Starbucks Corp., to push harder to avoid carrying the labels.

The companies say that trace amounts of the chemical acrylamide in their brew doesn’t justify a warning to consumers in California—an important market for food and beverage brands.

As the companies gird for potentially years more of legal wrangling, industry analysts have collectively shrugged, saying consumers are unlikely to abstain even if labels warn of hidden dangers.

“Consumers often do not change their behavior” because of health warnings because there is so much conflicting information, said Joe Pawlak, a foodservice-industry consultant at Technomic.

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