A mysterious nonprofit made millions suing companies to put California cancer warnings on coffee

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/06/martyn-smith-uc-berkeley.html


How does the gov know they are truly acting as a non-profit because everything about it seems highly suspect.


Non profits just mean that they don’t make a profit, once salaries and other expenses are taken into consideration. There’s nothing stopping the people running them from giving themselves very high salaries though.


The IRS does impose limits on compensation, even for executives. They’re not great, and yeah, do depend on the IRS having the bandwidth to go after companies with the backing of only vague legal language, but the spirit is there…


Opportunistic law firms often take advantage of legislation like Prop 65, whether the laws are questionable or valid. As described, they go after the big corps first for quick settlements (often without requiring them to remedy the alleged violation) and then start suing mom-and-pops. It can become the core revenue stream for a firm, but it’s rarely about compliance with the law.


Sounds like grifting going on. I’d look towards some contracts that they give out. And who they pay rent to. At a market rate I’m sure.


Yet another case of grifters using the law to achieve results not supported by the science.

See also: roundup/glyphosphate.


despite the disputed science behind their demands.

Well then we might as well admit that most of the things on the California lists are disputed.

The real difference here is that everyone loves their coffee and no one is going to give it up, and people don’t want to see a reminder that there might be something bad about it. If anything, this is as much as story about Big Coffee as anything else, that they managed to get an exemption for their industry.

You can’t be in favor of California’s stringent warning label laws, and then pick and choose a few where the “science isn’t 100% there” …because it’s not 100% there for most things on the list. Everything “dangerous” on the list is only dangerous when consumed in quantities greater than those studied, that’s how “potentially cancer causing” ingredients get discovered, by overkill ingestion by mice.


Right, Prop 65 is dumb, and should be abolished. There’s no science to the warning labels. The dose makes the poison.


But by digging through documents going back to CERT's formation in 2001, Mole uncovered some of its other principals...

The real conspiracy? There’s no way the investigator, who “digs through” documents and “uncovers” hidden facts is actually named Beth Mole.


Are people in favor of this law? I have always lumped it in with anti-vax and climate denialism.


Sounds like Professor Smith has found himself a mighty nice tenure-track grift there. His nonprofit hires him to be an “expert witness,” wins court cases, uses $ to fund his research lab. University administration loves every single one of those things. I bet his faculty file looks like some A+ “public impact”.


Its amazing how many things can be shown to cause cancer by forcing a rat to eat it until it gets cancer. Never mind the doses involved would be equivalent to a person downing dozens of coffees a day, way past the acute caffeine dose would kill them. Prop 65 is a broken law and I’m surprised its only being taken advantage of by this one grifter.


There was a discussion on the cancer warning label on coffee a while back.

The tl:dr version is anything exposed to dry heat that turns "golden brown and delicious " contains acrylamide. If you put warning labels on everthing then they are utterly meaningless and serve no purpose. I know the Law did not specify a minimal level of risk, but it needs to. Otherwise it is of no use whatsoever.


What about when it’s not just golden brown but practically burned? I’m thinking of Starbucks and Italian dark roasts in general. (I feel like it’s all BS to be honest but if there’s any truth to that I feel like there must be a distinction there like between eating toast every day and eating burnt toast every day.)

I should probably read that other thread.

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Not at all. Most non-profits run a budget/funding surplus even after paying staff and expenses.

The definitional thing is that these funds are not profit, they are not income for ownership. Instead those funds, and the organization are used for a non business purpose. Usually described as “public interest” purposes. Whether thats fostering an alliance between the Reptiloids and Human governments. Or running a church or school.

Its a different legal entity and a different tax class. There are strict (if often unenforced) rules about how they operate and public disclosure of funds and usage.

Uber does not become a non-profit just because they don’t turn a profit.

Then you should be terrified of grilled food. The levels of acrylamide involved are still well below those squirted into petri dishes full of cells to demonstrate cancer risk ex vivo. If real world exposure levels had a practical impact on cancer risk we’d all be fucked.


I hear cavemen didn’t live very long. Must have been all that roasting over an open fire that killed them.

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I hear cave men liked their meat sad and gray.

But human lifespan hasn’t increased all that much. Shorter life expectancy in the past is skewed by massive child mortality.




Science is never 100% there for anything, from an empirical falsificationist viewpoint.