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Stupid law – No 1 – coffee warnings

  • October 24th, 2017

The Lost Angeles Times editorial of 30 September comments on a California law requirement that cafes with more than 10 employees expressly warn customers of the possible cancer risk from acrylamide in coffee. The fact that the risk may be tiny, and outweighed by potential anti-cancer effects of coffee drinking makes no difference. That warning will be added to the thousands of warnings about normal risks of everyday life that now insult adults everywhere.

So far, nothing of interest – lawyers and public health zealots have been at this for decades.  The interesting part is the Times’ mea culpa. They admit to having scoffed at the warnings of opponents of the referendum and the law, back in 1986.

“The prospect that warnings might be added to every cup of coffee seemed like a joke back in 1986, when opponents of the proposal touted its potential misuse. We pooh-poohed those claims at the time, even though we opposed the initiative as too inflexible.

To be sure, the potential problems would not approach the grossly exaggerated levels predicted by the anti-Proposition 65 campaign, led by oil and chemical companies and the agriculture industry, [but] we wrote. “Passage of Proposition 65 will not lead to the banning of ordinary table salt or require warning labels on every apple sold or cup of coffee served in California.”

The fact that the most outlandish prediction may now come true only underscores the need for fixing or replacing this law”.

I’ve not felt able to laugh wholeheartedly at such nonsense in the US for over 20 years, after I came across the then new flip up seats in a refurbished lecture theatre at Victoria University of Wellington. The authorities showed their diligent care for the safety of our nation’s juvenile brightest and best. Each flipped up seat bore a natty label on its upward facing edge with a legend of indisputable logic and simplicity (no doubt in typeface of regulated clarity and prominence) – “Warning – place seat down before sitting”.

An institution genuinely dedicated to high standards and excellence would instead have made do with a simple policy. Any student who failed to “place seat down before sitting” with the gall to complain about lack of care by the University should be instantly terminated for being too stupid to deserve a VUW qualification.


  • Eric Crampton
  • October 24th, 2017
  • 1:33 pm

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’d like to think that those seats were imported from some crazy place and nobody thought it worth the bother of removing the stickers.


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  • Stephen
  • November 14th, 2017
  • 5:08 pm


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