OEHHA Clarifies Prop 65 Cancer Warning Requirement for Coffee

OEHHA Clarifies Prop 65 Cancer Warning Requirement for Coffee

July 5, 2018 By

Prop 65, California’s right-to-know law that requires a clear and reasonable warning for chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm, finds that coffee does not require a cancer warning.


What is Prop 65?


The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in the state of California administers the Proposition 65 (Prop 65) program, which is a right-to-know law that requires businesses to provide clear and reasonable warnings to consumers when they may be exposed to chemicals that could be carcinogenic or cause reproductive harm. OEHHA, which is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), determines whether chemicals meet the scientific and legal requirements for placement on the Proposition 65 list, and is responsible to update and maintain said list where a chemical or by-product could cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. OEHHA may determine when reviewing a chemical or by-product that there is a limit below which the chemical may be safely used without cancer or reproductive harm, referred to as a safe harbor limit, and for which no additional warning is required.


Considering Prop 65 is a law that requires clear and reasonable warnings for carcinogens and reproductive toxicants, you may be wondering how this could relate to your morning cup of coffee. The answer is acrylamide, a chemical that is created during the roasting and brewing process of coffee, and that has been shown to be a carcinogen in animal laboratory studies—although it has not been proven to cause cancer in humans. While acrylamide has been present on the Prop 65 list since February 2011, and products containing this chemical are required to provide a Prop 65 warning, makers of coffee can breathe a sigh of relief as OEHHA has announced this June that coffee, although containing acrylamide, would not require a cancer warning.


Scientific Factors in the Acrylamide Decision


This decision is due to the fact that coffee is a mixture of many chemicals, such as acrylamide, (which is considered carcinogenic), as well as antioxidants (considered to protect against cancer, and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer). Moreover, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there is inadequate evidence to demonstrate that coffee causes cancer in a review of over 1,000 studies. IARC additionally concluded that coffee drinking can provide strong antioxidant effects, potentially reducing cancer risk. Based on this strong evidence from IARC, OEHHA concluded that coffee would not require a cancer warning under Prop 65, as it does not cause significant cancer risk. However, it is important to note, that while coffee would largely be exempted from carrying a cancer Prop 65 warning, this regulation would not cover chemicals or contaminants that are added intentionally or unintentionally to the coffee in a manner other than through the brewing and roasting process.


While OEHHA has proposed a regulation that would largely exempt coffee from carrying a Prop 65 warning, this proposal is still open for comment until August 30, 2018, with a public hearing taking place on August 16. Additionally, while coffee may be getting a pass when it comes to Prop 65 cancer warnings, there are numerous other chemicals that may be contained in your products that will require a Prop 65 warning. With penalties for violating Proposition 65 (eg. by failing to provide notices) running upwards of $2,500 per violation per day, it is in a company’s best interest to do their due diligence and assess each product sold in the state of California to ensure you are providing clear and reasonable warnings, where required.


Watch this video for a quick explanation of Prop 65!



dicentra provides sought-after guidance on Prop 65 product assessments, product and marketing compliance, quality assurance and safety standards, research and development, new ingredient assessments and overall regulatory strategies for food and health-related products sold in North American marketplaces. We can also assist you with your marketing material reviews of labels, brochures, advertisements, and websites for Canada and the USA. We can be reached at 1-866-647-3279 or info@dicentra.com.