Court Orders Pause On Proposition 65 Lawsuits Related to Acrylamide
After a wave of lawsuits on restaurants struggling during COVID-19, a new California district court order has ordered a pause on all Proposition 65 lawsuits related to acrylamide. With legal efforts being led by the California Chamber of Commerce, recent legal decisions point to a positive outcome for the food and beverage industry.
What is Proposition 65?
Approved by voters in 1986, Proposition 65 is a law that requires businesses to publicize the presence of any known substances in their products that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Proactively, Prop. 65 creates a level of transparency for consumers, so that they may make informed decisions on products that could cause adverse health outcomes.
Originally, Proposition 65 set out to limit the contamination of toxins in safe drinking water; now, the law more broadly applies to all businesses to ensure the disclosure of any chemicals that may impact products in the home or workplace.
Since 1987, California has published a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or other health complications every year. To date, there are over 900 substances are on the list.
According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, chemicals are added to the published list through input and research from the scientific community.
Any entity found in violation of Proposition 65 is subject to a civil penalty of $2,500 - per day.
Small Legal Relief for Restaurants and Businesses
Though Proposition 65 has made significant strides in raising awareness on cancer-inducing substances, recent developments in regard to acrylamide have met some controversy - especially as it impacts the food and beverage industry.
In 1990, acrylamide was published on the Prop. 65 list and is a substance naturally produced when heating foods. Most notably, small traces are produced when cooking everyday food items, such as coffee, bread, and other pastries.
In the past year alone, over 300 lawsuits have been raised alleging exposure to acrylamide in food.
However, recent research has been raised that disputes the relationship between acrylamide and causing cancer. According to the California Chamber of Commerce, scientific data shows that there is no evidence that demonstrates that consuming acrylamide found in food will lead to the development of cancer.
Fortunately, a California district court has ordered a pause on all Proposition 65 lawsuits related to acrylamide, finding that the Chamber was "likely to succeed on the merits" of its arguments. Though no final decision has been made yet, the case looks promising for restaurants that have been struggling through a wave of lawsuits in the past year.