The Los Angeles Times reports that an obscure group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics is engaged in a lawsuit that “claims Starbucks and about 90 other companies, including grocery stores and retail shops, failed to follow a state law requiring warning signs about hazardous chemicals found everywhere from household products to workplaces to the environment.”

The toxic chemical at issue is acrylamide, described in the story as “a carcinogen found in cooked foods such as French fries that is also a natural byproduct of the coffee roasting process. The coffee industry has acknowledged the presence of the chemical but asserts it is at harmless levels and is outweighed by benefits from drinking coffee.”

The goal of the lawsuit is to force “coffee manufacturers, distributors and retailers to post ominous warnings about a cancer-causing chemical stewing in every brew” - unless they are able to remove the chemical from the process. Defense lawyers have argued that coffee manufacturers and retailers should be exempted from the state’s toxic chemical regulations because of as regulatory caveat for chemicals that “result naturally from cooking necessary for palatability or to avoid microbiological contamination.”

If successful, the Times writes, such a verdict “could send a jolt through the industry with astronomical penalties possible and it could wake up a lot of consumers, though it’s unclear what effect it would have on coffee-drinking habits.”

KC's View: When I read this story, the first thing I thought about was how confused consumers must be. Sometimes we get told that coffee ( or a variety of other foods and beverages) are good for us, and then suddenly someone wants to put a warning label on the things we love. No wonder consumers throw up their hands sometimes, with no idea what to eat or drink.

In this case, I’m going to keep drinking coffee, Black. Caffeinated. The hell with it. It is lone of the great pleasures of my life.