California Lawsuits Over Cancer Warning Labels Paused by Judge

California’s controversial Prop 65 requires warning labels for all products which may contain toxic chemicals. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, business groups fighting California over required cancer warning labels on products containing a chemical commonly found in coffee and junk food notched a legal victory Tuesday, as a judge temporarily barred enforcement of the state law.

Citing shaky scientific proof regarding the danger of eating foods containing acrylamide, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller granted the California Chamber of Commerce’s motion for preliminary injunction. Mueller prevented the state or private parties from suing companies for not putting Proposition 65 warning labels solely on food and beverages containing the toxic chemical as the case continues in federal court.

“The state has not shown that the cancer warnings it requires are purely factual and uncontroversial,” Mueller said. “Nor has it shown that Proposition 65 imposes no undue burden on those who would provide a more carefully worded warning.”

Mueller’s findings fall in line with arguments coffee roasters and food producers have been making for decades when it comes to the common chemical’s danger to humans. Acrylamide is used to treat drinking water and for making plastic and cosmetic products, but it also is sometimes found naturally in food.

While not common in meat, fish and dairy products, acrylamide is often found in baked or fried goods like french fries, potato chips, donuts and some tobacco products. In addition, the chemical has been identified in healthier products such as coffee, almonds and black olives.

Studies have shown rats fed water and food containing acrylamide were more likely to develop cancerous tumors all over their bodies, but so far epidemiologists have not reached a consensus when it comes to humans. Meanwhile, the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens lists acrylamide as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

The case at hand was filed by the Chamber in 2019 and it casts acrylamide warning labels for food products as free speech violations. It claims the science is far-from settled and that warning labels are inherently misleading to consumers.

As it stands, Mueller appears to agree with the plaintiff but says it’s likely the chamber would succeed with its First Amendment fight.

“If a business decides not to use the safe harbor warning, it risks expensive and lengthy litigation against private enforcers or the state, and defendants carry heavy evidentiary burdens if they attempt to show their products contain permissibly small quantities of acrylamide,” Mueller’s order states.

“We are on the side of common sense,” said Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg in a statement. “This lawsuit is about reducing unnecessary fear for consumers and litigation threats for businesses.”

If people can disagree about something, even warning labels, it’s probably going to end up in court. Disputes like this one are EVERYWHERE! And when those awful things negatively impact YOU and YOUR business, including contract issues, landlord/tenant matters, nuisance ADA claims and even collections, call in the good guy business litigator, Dean Sperling to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind!

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