CERT and a Coffee Lawsuits for Cancer
  • 27
  • September

The little-known nonprofit who reaped Millions By Taking Firms To Court Over Cancer Warnings

This piece is a warning to those who have legitimate business practices but have found themselves taken advantage of by an ambulance chaser who was out to tarnish their good name. If you fall into this category our team of reputation repair experts can help fix your Google & Social Media search results.

Coffee is legitimately now sold in California without cancer warnings. However, there is a secretive firm that first launched the legal claim over the popular beverage which has declared to continue fighting Coffee makers over the lack of warnings on their labels.

On June 3rd of last year, California state officers finally gave approval to a fresh regulatory measure that declared the lack of substantial cancer risk in coffee. This made it exempt from bearing the cancer warnings. This regulation came after prolonged legal battles from a secretive nonprofit known as the Council for Education and Research on Toxins (CERT).

10 years ago, CERT filed cases against close to 90 coffee brewers and roasters such as Folgers, Starbucks, and other renowned brands arguing that coffee comes with cancer dangers and this needs to be on the packaging. This comes despite the lack of substantial scientific research that backs the argument and some contradicting data. Additionally, in its lawsuits, CERT claimed that each cup of Joe ought to be given bearing cancer precautions as needed by California’s contentious health regulation, Proposition 65.0

The Prop65 coffee law has been passed starting on 10/1/19. It states that exposures to coffee ingredients outlined before or on 3/15 as discovered to be carcinogenic, which is formed by and naturally occur when brewing or roasting coffee beans do not cause a significant risk to cancer.

For the past several years, CERT has been suing renowned firms in the industry such as Uniliver, Starbucks, Target, Walmart, Dunkin’ Donuts, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, and many others. This has been reported on for the last 6 years while CERT has bagged millions of dollars as settlements essentially doing what some people consider legal extortion. However, in spite of gaining huge payouts in these expensive legal battles and appearing in national headlines, nothing much is known about the organization, its management, and its operations. Many consider them a scam similar to the public citizen group based out of Washington, D.C.

CERT Lawsuits over Coffee warnings
Have Your Cup of Coffee and Beware of the Cancer Warnings…

Government and taxation documents indicate that CERT was founded in 2001, and is based out of Long Beach, California. On the tax registration information, CERT indicated its physical address as similar to that of its attorney, Raphael Metzger who works with Metzger Law Group. Otherwise, CERT does not operate any websites and of course public presence, apart from filing several Proposition 65 court cases for years Metzger and his law firm have flown under the radar while shaking down the coffee giants and receiving a PPP Loan during the pandemic of more than $150,000 for his boutique law firm.

From its creation in 2001, CERT has filed cases against several firms, all citing the violation of Proposition 65 for including acrylamide in personal products, beverages, and food. In fact, acrylamide is present in several foods and other products but we’ve yet to uncover lawsuits against those who sell those products without warnings on the labels.

Acrylamide forms when food is browned when roasting, baking, frying, searing, or else heating under temperatures exceeding 120° C. It forms as a result of the tasty Maillard chemical reaction, an intricate chemical reaction that occurs between sugars that undergo a reduction in the process of heating and amino acids (asparagine in particular). Thus, it can be found in a broad range of foods such as olives, roasted nuts, French fries, cookies, prune juice, coffee, and cereals among others.

Regulatory authorities and health organizations have tried to link acrylamide risk of cancer mainly based on research where animals were administered excess doses- obviously above the usual exposure range in human beings. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes acrylamide to be a “possible human carcinogen” and US National Toxicology Program (NTP) classifies it in the category of being “reasonably expected to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Exposure To Cancer & Warnings

Ideally, the levels of exposure are essential when trying to comprehend the risk. Reviewing of heaps of epidemiological records and several studies have significantly failed to gather evidence of an increase in cancer incidences resulting from exposure to dietary acrylamide. For instance, a specific detailed meta-analysis done by researchers from Europe in 2011, indicated that studies persistently point out the absence of high risk of various cancers as a result of acrylamide exposure.

Additionally, from 1990, acrylamide has remained on California’s category of carcinogenic products outlined in Proposition 65, known as the Toxic Enforcement and Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986. This Act requires that Californians be given a warning on predisposition to any form of exposure to the 900 or more chemicals listed in Proposition 65. The regulation has resulted to increase in warning signs and lucrative legal battles from controversial organizations and citizens. Governor Jerry Brown in 2017 requested alterations on Proposition 65 in the efforts to put on hold what he termed as “playful shakedown legal battles.” Unfortunately, Brown was quite late and could not prevent CERT from proceeding with its countless lawsuits that can be conceived as an evil genius.

Raphael Metzger (Butcher) CERT, Burger King, & McDonald’s

Metzger which means Butcher in German through CERT in 2002 took Burger King and McDonald’s to court for failing to display cancer warnings on their French fries that contained acrylamide. The lawsuit that was perceived as shady by some but protected the most health conscious led to a $3miilion settlement and the fast-food giants accepted to use the warnings. Also, CERT and The Metzger Law Firm argued that the lawsuit compelled the chip producer Frito-Lay to proactively decrease the levels of acrylamide in all its products. So is it really all that bad if these lawsuits saved the lives of those who didn’t realize the risk of eating Fast Food and Unhealthy Snacks?

After finishing with the French fries lawsuits, CERT launched lawsuits against other products containing acrylamide such as baby foods, body lotions, shampoos, and other coffee products. In 2018 during spring, a magistrate gave a ruling that favored CERT in a case it had against about 90 coffee dealers making the nonprofit bag another huge payout. During this time, Metzger disclosed to Associated Press that several defendants had honored the settlements. The agreements included the 7-Eleven $900,000 settlement and $675,000 from BP West Coast Products which operate gas station stores.

Where does CERT take all the cash it earns from such big settlements? Despite CERT’s real operations being unclear, some tips may be obtained from its lawsuit documents that lead to one renowned academic research expert.

The state indicates that CERT was formed in 2001 citing Metzger as the key person but also four co-founders who do not appear to have a strong link with the organization. These include Carl Cranor a professor who teaches philosophy at UC Riverside, C. Sterling Wolfe an attorney who became an actor, and IMDb states is dying on February 15th of last year, and Martyn Smith who chairs the cancer epidemiology at UC Berkeley. Additionally, taxation documents list Nancy Quam-Wickham a renowned history professor at California State University at Long Beach as the secretary of CERT and its CFO as Nancy Perley.

Tracing the Money From the Lawsuits

We were unable to get in touch with the co-founders CFO Perley and Lunn or Wolfe. Co-founders Smith and Cranor as well as Secretary Quam-Wickham failed to give any response after several phone calls. Similarly, Metzger also failed to reply to various phone calls to discuss further.

However, the documents track from Smith gives hints on where the cash goes and a probable plan for the nonprofit. Our research did not find any indication of Smith’s role in the formation of CERT from his online academic documents like a resume however Smith gives testimonies during CERT’s legal battles in various incidences as a specialist in cancer research.

It remains unclear if Smith made efforts to disclose his duty as one of the CERT founders during those lawsuits. A document from the cases that Metzger filed exhibits the testimony from Smith referring to him as a “renowned world scientist leading researchers in the study investigating the risks of childhood leukemia. ” The testimony from Smith also points out a connection between childhood leukemia and maternal consumption of coffee. This suggestion contradicts a renowned research body looking for the relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of cancer. A group of experts working under IARC in 2016 found “no convincing evidence of the cancerous effect of consuming coffee.”

A keen look at Smith’s research indicates that CERT is a common source of funds for it. Various documents have shown CERT as his main source of funding for his research (though not connected to acrylamide) and other students in graduate studies.

Consequently, Smith seems to benefit directly from CERT, an organization he helps found. Apart from giving funds to Smith, the only notable work that CERT carries out is to file legal cases taking advantage of stringent chemical exposure regulations in California. These legal battles mainly involve exactly Smith offering testimony as an expert witness.

Professor Smith and Public Health Press officials from the University of California Berkeley also failed to reply to calls about the lawsuits and Smith’s testimony.

Up to now, it remains obscure how lawsuits from CERT against coffee dealers will end up in corridors of justice owing to the new rule that excludes coffee from Proposition 65. However, coffer brewers applauded the rule. From here we will probably hear the distributors to be obliged to fight for a reprieve. In a briefing, William Murray, the CEO and President of the National Coffee Association concluded: “This remains an awesome day for the coffee lovers and science.”

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