Prop 65: California’s newly adopted “Safe Harbor” warning label for acrylamide
Eric P. Weiss
California has approved a new, alternative “Safe Harbor” warning label for foods containing acrylamide, a naturally-occurring byproduct that occurs during high-heat cooking. Acrylamide is a substance that forms through a natural chemical reaction in certain plant-based foods during high-temperature cooking, and can be found in foods like potato chips, bread, grilled vegetables, nuts, crackers, and olives. There is conflicting evidence regarding the risk it poses to humans. While studies exposing laboratory rats and mice to high levels of acrylamide have been shown to produce cancer, other studies have found no consistent evidence that dietary acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in humans.
The current safe-harbor Prop 65 food warning states:
WARNING: Consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including [name of one or more chemicals], which is [are] known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/food.
Effective January 1, 2023, businesses will have the option to use the following non-mandatory, alternative warning:
CALIFORNIA WARNING: Consuming this product can expose you to acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen formed in some foods during cooking or processing at high temperatures. Many factors affect your cancer risk, including the frequency and amount of the chemical consumed. For more information including ways to reduce your exposure, see www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/acrylamide
The revised warning is the result of ongoing litigation in the case of CalChamber v. Becerra, namely, that acrylamide forms naturally during food preparation and is a “probable,” as opposed to a “known”, carcinogen.