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Local roasters react to California cancer warning

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - Scientists haven't rendered a verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you, but a judge in California has, he says coffee sellers in the state should have to post cancer warnings.

The decision revolves around the chemical acrylamide, which is created when coffee beans are roasted. 

The chemical has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing — like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago — or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks Corp., said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said last Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.

"I think at times we tend to overreact to some of these warnings and moderation has always been key unless you drink a large excessively amount," said coffee drinker and retired registered dietitian Rose Anne Wincek.

Jochen and Mindie Beheydt, owners of Seneca Sunrise Coffee, a specialty roaster, in Watkins Glen, say there is no harmful affects.

"I was kind of shocked, I didn't think anything about it, I read that grilling a steak or grilling vegetables have the same amount or more depending on how you cook them," said Beheydt. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, acrylamide is also found in French fries, potato chips, crackers, bread, and breakfast cereals.

The Beheydts' are not concerned about a similar ruling coming to New York but do want to stress their shop sticks to organic beans.

"We do buy organic fair trade coffee to reduce the chemicals to start buying for consuming organic coffee ourselves, ten, twelve years ago, just to try to get the pesticides out of our systems if we could" Beheydt said.

The National Coffee Association says the industry may appeal the judge's decision.

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