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California Bill Would Ban Decaf Method Used by Starbucks, Dunkin', and More

California Bill Would Ban Decaf Method Used by Starbucks, Dunkin', and More

"We are using a known carcinogen to decaffeinate coffee," said Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, a San Bernardino Democrat. The National Coffee Association says the method is safe. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

4/17/2024

Updated: 4/17/2024

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A California bill aims to prohibit the use of a carcinogenic chemical commonly used in the decaffeination process of coffee.
Assembly Bill 2066, authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, proposes to ban the sale and distribution of all coffee products that have been decaffeinated using methylene chloride, commonly known as European Method decaf.
“We are using a known carcinogen to decaffeinate coffee,” Ms. Reyes said, as reported by ABC7. “There are three ways of decaffeinating coffee. ... This is the only one that uses a known carcinogen to decaffeinate it.”
Ms. Reyes said in a bill analysis that the chemical particularly harms pregnant women who often switch from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee, assuming it is safe to consume during pregnancy. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, the chemical can pass from mother to baby.
Methylene chloride, a clear liquid used in adhesives, paint, pharmaceuticals, metal cleaning, and aerosols, has been prohibited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the past five years in paint and paint removers. However, it is not banned in food or drinks.
Under the European Method, manufacturers steam green coffee beans to open their pores and then rinse them with methylene chloride, which binds to and removes the caffeine.
According to Clean Label Project, a Colorado based nonprofit that works to bring transparency to food and consumer product labeling and one of the sponsors of the bill, companies that use methylene chloride to remove caffeine include big names like Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Kirkland.
Two other decaffeination methods include the Swiss Water Process, which relies solely on water and carbon filtration to remove caffeine, and what’s known as the supercritical carbon dioxide method, which uses carbon dioxide under high temperatures and pressure to reach into the crevices of coffee beans and dissolve the caffeine.
Brands that use those methods include Peet’s Coffee, Nespresso, 365 Everyday Value, and Allegro Coffee. Many other brands, including Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, did not specify their method used.
The National Coffee Association, leading the opposition to the bill, said claims in the bill’s text conflict with scientific determinations by the European Union, the United States, and food safety authorities worldwide, all of which, it said, have deemed European Method decaf as safe.
Approximately 10 percent of American adults drink decaffeinated coffee daily, and the European Method has been the primary technique for decaffeination in the industry for over 50 years, according to the coffee association.
“The overwhelming weight of independent scientific evidence shows that drinking European Method decaf is safe and furthermore that drinking European Method decaf, like all coffee, is associated with decreased risk of multiple cancers and other significant health benefits,” said coffee association President and CEO Bill Murray in a statement.
The association additionally said other decaffeination methods are generally less common and more costly than the European Method.
“Banning European Method decaf would leave only a minority of decaffeinated coffee on the market, increase prices, and restrict Californians’ access to a safe product associated with health benefits,” the coffee association said in the bill’s analysis.
If passed, AB 2066 would take effect Jan. 1, 2027. The bill proposes civil penalties for violators who sell the outlawed coffee, with fines of up to $5,000 for a first-time offense and up to $10,000 for each subsequent violation.
The legislation is currently under review by the state Assembly’s Health Committee.
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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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