April 2018 Newsletter
Topics for the newsletter can sometimes be hard to come by, but this
month's was a no brainer. A California judge has decided that all
coffee sold in the state should come with a "May cause cancer"
warning on the packaging. The basis for the decision was a civil
lawsuit brought by a local non-profit foundation, alleging that
since roasted coffee contains a chemical called acrylamide, and
acrylamides are known carcinogens, roasted and brewed coffee may be
a cancer risk.
The judge decided that since the defendants (several large coffee
companies, including Starbucks, and a lot of smaller ones) could not
prove that coffee wasn't harmful, such a warning was justified, and
damages were to be awarded to the non-profit foundation. It all
sounds pretty logical and straightforward.
Except, starting with the "non-profit foundation", it's actually a
front for the lawyer who instigated the lawsuit. The "other
concerned parties" to the suit are paid expert witnesses used by the
lawyer in a variety of other cases, including suing McDonalds for
the acrylamide content of their chips (alright, fries!) Then there's
the judgement itself.
"While plaintiff offered evidence that consumption of coffee
increases the risk of harm to the fetus, to infants, to children and
to adults, defendants' medical and epidemiology experts testified
that they had no opinion on causation." "Defendants failed to
satisfy their burden of proving ... that consumption of coffee
confers a benefit to human health."
This isn't the sort of stuff that can be decided in a court of law,
it requires heaps of hard evidence. To the best of my knowledge
there is NO reliable medical or scientific research proving that
coffee causes either great harm or great health. Nor is their any
proof that acrylamides cause cancer in humans, particularly at the
miniscule dosage levels in both coffee and chips. And it's literally
impossible to prove that coffee does no harm, as anyone who remained
awake in their first year Philosophy lecture on "Proving the
Negative" should know. (If you were asleep, the answer is "you can't
prove the negative.")
The only "proven fact" in the whole lawsuit is that massive doses of
pure acrylamide can cause cancer in rats and mice. Which is another
problem with letting lawyers decide this sort of stuff, the
judgement takes no account of species and dosage amounts. There are
many substances which are benign or beneficial in small amounts but
toxic in large quantities, and which are also species specific.
Think chocolate and dogs.
Sunlight, the iron in our blood, most of the fat soluble vitamins,
lithium ... all necessary for life but fatal in excess. A bit like
too many lawyers. Evolution seems to have gifted humans with the
ability to ignore low acrylamide concentrations, common in starchy
food which is baked, roasted or fried. Such as bread, chips,
tempura, schnitzel, coffee, and even Chiko Rolls. Which may kill
you, but not from an acrylamide cancer.
That these lawsuits, which are at heart the attempted and actual
legalised extortion of money from large companies, can go ahead and
even succeed says a lot about the state of the USA these days.
This month's special is
Organic Uganda Bugisu
This is a milder coffee, with a fruity strawberry front palate and a
creamy milk chocolate finish, perfect for a leisurely breakfast.
Until next month