If you’re a three-cups-a-day coffee drinker, you might want to pump your hyper-caffeinated brakes.

A non-profit group is fighting for warning labels on your cups of coffee and, brace yourselves, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Seattle’s Best, and Whole Foods are named on the list of over 90 companies facing the lawsuit. The group, Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT), are claiming that the brown, ground pick me ups contain acrylamide, a cancer-causing substance.

The chemical is produced when certain foods are cooked above 248°F — for example, coffee beans. The group is basing their argument on California’s proposition 65 which prevents businesses from knowingly releasing notable amounts of chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects into their products.

The coffee corporations are not going down without a fight. They are aware of acrylamide but stand convinced that the benefits of coffee are far greater than the carcinogenic levels.

The law requires that the defense prove that for every 100,000 people exposed to the chemical that one excess case of cancer is not occurring. The companies are expected to win the case as the traces of acrylamide is the natural reaction of cooking in order to avoid contamination.

The big purpose is to motivate the coffee industry to work to remove the chemical from the coffee. “The intent is not to scare people,” said Allan Hirsch, chief deputy of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). “The intention is to help people make more informed decisions. If you continue to buy a product that will expose you to a chemical, that’s OK as long as you’re informed.”

This lawsuit could serve as an awakening for coffee consumers, although whether the coffee-drinking habits will decrease is another story.

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