A New Risk at Starbucks for the Egg Allergy Community

A New Risk at Starbucks For the Egg Allergy CommunityLast July, we published a blog post entitled “Recent Concerns About Food Allergy Risks at Starbucks Explained.”  The genesis of that was a change Starbucks had made to remove the labels on milk pitchers
behind the counter such that various forms of milk – dairy, soy, coconut, almond, etc. – would no longer have dedicated pitchers.  In other words, each pitcher could be used alternatively for any form of milk, thus increasing cross contact risk.

Despite the disappointment from these actions, I praised Starbucks’ corporate office for “taking the time to address my concerns and clarify, openly and honestly, the risks to our community.”  During that conversation, it came to my attention that there already had been a cross contact risk from these pitchers (so this “new” revelation might have been a blessing in disguise) as well as a declaration from Starbucks that food-allergic customers need to know that cross contact is a real risk and that Starbucks cannot guarantee safety.

New Espresso Beverage Made With Egg Whites

Once again, I need to praise Starbucks’ corporate office even if I’m disappointed with a recent change that took place yesterday. In an effort to provide transparency and share new risks with our community proactively and timely, they reached out to AllergyEats to inform us of a new offering that increases the risk of consuming Starbucks beverages for those with egg allergies.

Yesterday, Starbucks introduced a new espresso beverage, the Cloud Macchiato, in both the US and Canada.  As they describe, the drink draws inspiration from a “meringue milk” beverage, common in Spain.  A key ingredient in their “special recipe” is egg whites.  While the milk foam in the product can be customized to use coconut milk, almond milk, or soy milk, the egg white powder to create the meringue texture cannot be removed.

Importantly, not only is this drink unsafe for those with egg allergies, but the egg-based Cloud Foam “is whipped in a blender that is also used for Frappuccinos and other Cold Foam beverages,” while “the hot Cloud Foam is steamed in a pitcher with a steaming wand that is used to craft other beverages.”

In other words, it appears that virtually all Starbucks drinks now have a significantly heightened risk of cross contact that could produce an allergic reaction in those with egg allergies.

Following my conversation with Starbucks last July, I stated that “there are no initiatives in place at the moment to improve accommodations for food-allergic customers at Starbucks.”  Unfortunately, I still believe this to be true.

Is Starbucks Allergy-Friendly Overall?

Yesterday, I asked Starbucks for an on-the-record answer to the question “Is Starbucks becoming less accommodating to those with food allergies?”  You read the answer and be the judge.

“It is Starbucks goal to create a welcoming environment for all customers. The introduction of an egg ingredient into our retail stores is not new.  We provide information about our products online and in our Mobile App so customers can make the best decision for their specific dietary needs.  We also inform customers that we cannot guarantee our products are allergen-free because we use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them.”

To that end, here are the links to the ingredients of their new beverages:

I also asked why a chain the size of Starbucks, with a core product (coffee) that appeals to a majority of Americans, at a time when it is deemed that at least 5% (and, per new research, 10%) of adults have a food allergy, would not consider it a smart business decision to make efforts toward creating a more allergy-accommodating environment.  That question wasn’t addressed.

Nevertheless, I once again DO applaud Starbucks for being up-front, timely, and transparent.  I appreciate that the sharing of new information in this way is itself allergy-friendly.  Of course, I continue to be disappointed by their lack of leadership with respect to food allergy accommodations given their ability to affect positive change on a massive scale.

But that’s just one individual’s opinion.  What do you think?  How do you feel about the new beverage offering?  What do you think of their statement on accommodating food-allergic guests?  Do you feel safe or unsafe at Starbucks given your individual food allergies? Please share your opinion.  We always want to hear it!

(And while we’ve got your attention, get ready for AllergyEats’ newest list of the Top 10 Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains in America!  The 2019 list – our 8thannual – will be in your inbox on Monday!)

Comments

    Author:
    venessa pinkney
    Written:


    Yes I agree WHY can’t a company that is well in business making huge profits make a change that is a life saving measure to protect adults and in my person case my child..I love my coffee but ..as it could happen.. a possible cross contamination of nuts ..sad..such has not been done as on other food chains that make less profit care for each person ….and make are food safe

    Author:
    Carrie
    Written:


    I do appreciate the information, but it is very disappointing that Starbucks continues to move in a direction of excluding food allergic customers. Instead of finding ways to make things safer, they are making decisions that mean even more of their customers cannot safely be served there. Thank goodness other restaurants are not moving in this direction, at least not yet.

    Author:
    Miranda
    Written:


    I agree that this news is simultaneously appreciated (in terms of being upfront and transparent) and disappointing. While I appreciate that Starbucks does not try to hide or sugar-coat the fact that folks with severe food allergies probably should not be patronizing their establishment, it is disappointing that Starbucks is seemingly OK with just writing off the food allergy community’s business. Particularly where, in regards to this new drink, it just seems so…..unnecessary??

    Author:
    Kristin C
    Written:


    In my opinion, Starbucks, by not doing something to implement an allergen program, is missing a huge opportunity to benefit millions of people. It’s an accessibility issue. There are many individuals with disabilities other than food allergies, that can enter and use the store safely via accessible bathrooms, entrances. Persons with hearing impairments or sight can still access their products. Those in the food allergy community cannot. I also know that the allergy community as a whole is loyal, many of us have almost zero to only a few trusted places we visit to get food outside of the home. If there is a place, like this, that I can patronize, it’s not only because they have a yummy product, but it would be because I could rest in knowing myself or my child would honestly not die while consuming it. It’s that simple. We want to be included and have more normalcy to our every day. There is so much we already must do in our own homes, and as we navigate the workplace and schools, outings and events. If a restaurant with this much of the market doesn’t see the potential, I’m not sure how else they will “get it”. Consider the Hershey company. They obviously handle various common allergens, but do so with care, documentation and they label well. So although there are products they have that aren’t suitable for some allergies, some are. Similarly with the So Delicious brand. I hope soon, Starbucks or Dutch Bros, or another chain will set the precedent (similarly with what Pei Wei is striving to do) so that the allergy community can continue to be more welcomed into restaurants rather than pushed aside.

    Author:
    Patricia Horgan
    Written:


    Goodbye Starbucks! My grand daughter has a severe allergy to peanuts and nuts. It sickens me that they can not accommodate someone with an allergy. It really is a dangerous place for all. I have a heart problem and can not drink caffenated coffee .You guessed it they assured me that they would give me decade..they just poured one from a pot! You get a group of teens going in and one has an allergy..not safe! They also are not safe with my other son who is T1 diabetic..who knows what hidden flavors and sweetness are in those drinks! I am in disgust with their lack of care!! Just whip up the poison!!

    Author:
    YULIA
    Written:


    What a timely topic, yesterday my eight year old with dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut and sesame allergy asked me if there is anything she could have at Starbucks. I jokingly replied water. I then went to their mobile app to see and actually was not impressed with the ability to find anything. We ordered an iced tea and she did not like it oh well $4 down the drain and that was not with 100% certainty that it would be safe.

    Hey Starbucks how about you make things just a bit simpler.

    Author:
    Ravi
    Written:


    I am very disappointed with Starbucks that it is moving away from being allergy friendly food outlet. Removing labels and not having dedicated pitchers for milk etc is just too much of pleasing share holders and increasing profits.

    One more reason to boycott Starbucks apart from cost!

    Author:
    Clare
    Written:


    I will no longer be supporting Starbucks, a company with a flagrant disregard for the health and well being of their patrons. This speaks volumes about their business model and lack of integrity. There are plenty of other, and quite frankly better, coffee options available.

    Author:
    Jeri Garcia
    Written:


    Great job to all the previous posts! We have had this issue come up too many times, as my oldest daughter has grown up with her severe peanut allergy. Now she is away at college and she has found her favorite study spot in Starbucks but unfortunately can’t order food or snacks. She does get many of their drinks, but wouldn’t it be nice to order a snack with your Mocha? Many times while heading to a plane at the airport, we stop to grab a coffee and snack for the plane, but she can only get the coffee. We have dealt with this for 18 years, wouldn’t it be nice for Starbucks to get with the times! Many other companies have.

    Author:
    Geneva
    Written:


    I’m grateful to have this information! I was, up until now, a frequent Starbucks customer; however, with my severe allergy to egg I will one no longer. This is extremely disappointing that they would not, at least, make an effort to keep such ingredients separate. Unfortunately, I believe they are underestimating the number of people this will affect, in addition to the number of customers they are losing. Believe me, if I can’t drink their beverages, no one in my family will be drinking them either. Therefore, they’re not just losing me as a customer, but the other three members of my family as a result. Although I do commend their transparency, the decision creates an environment of exclusion in a time when we are already so divided. Those of us with extreme allergies know how hard it is to find a restaurant that is sensitive to our plight, and one would think that, in general, an establishment that serves coffee would be safe. In my opinion: poor move!

    Author:
    Virginia Blomster
    Written:


    I’m saddened by this move as I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy and coconut. This is a game changer!

    Author:
    Nie
    Written:


    Cynic person in me think that Starbucks is up-front, timely, and transparent about the allergy information is not because they care about the people with food allergies, but because they are afraid of possible lawsuits or severe accidents, which can result in the negative publicity.
    Being sensitive to food allergy issues also requires resources: you need extra training, equipment, and space to make and serve the safe meal/beverage. Starbucks obviously does not want to spare their resources for the people with food allergies.
    Come to think of it, it is ironic since they make various types of coffee to attend to the preference of the people, but they cannot attend to the life-threatening needs of those who have food allergies.

    Author:
    Angie
    Written:


    I used to love Starbucks! I even worked at one for a bit. And when I developed a peanut and tree nut allergy in my 20s, I was pretty much still ok with getting drinks there. Then they added Almond milk. They dunk the steam wands into every kind of milk, and they’re only cleaned with moist rag. It was very clear that I could no longer have milk drinks at Starbucks. They also added coconut milk, which effectively prevents my coconut-allergic boyfriend from having any kind of milk beverage there as well. It was weird to suddenly not really be able to hang out at Starbucks anymore.

    Author:
    Nicki S.
    Written:


    I would on occasion treat myself to a Starbucks coffee, but now given this new development I will not. I am extremely allergic to eggs, and I am not risking having to use my EpiPen just to get a cup of coffee!! I am also allergic to almonds, so the cross contamination of the milk pitchers could also cause me to have a reaction. I don’t understand why they would go from allergen friendly to a complete disregard for people with food allergies!!

    Author:
    Tara
    Written:


    Eggs are not among my allergy issues, but the fact that they would be so callous about the many people who deal with that as a life-threatening issue means that I will NOT be going back to Starbucks. And although I’m lucky not to have egg allergies, I am allergic to coconut, and if Starbucks doesn’t mind putting people at risk over eggs, well my allergen is a just a matter of time too.

    Author:
    Mamihen
    Written:


    On the day the new Cloud drink came out my 23 year old daughter had one sip of the new Cloud Macchiato and had an immediate anaphylactic reaction. She did not realize it had egg white in the cloud. After epipen, ambulance, hospital etc she was unable to work the rest of the week.
    Starbucks could not have been more insensitive when we reported the issue. Downright insulting. Shame on you, Starbucks!

    Author:
    michelled
    Written:


    are used to be at Starbucks purchasing coffee every day but I just found out that I have celiac disease. There doesn’t seem to be any coffee drinks except just plain coffee that I am able to drink being gluten-free. Why are you leaving your gluten-free, celiac customers in the dark? You must be losing a lot of money now that I’m not there anymore

    Author:
    Aileen
    Written:


    Good bye Starbucks.

    Unfortunately, it also depends on the staff, who need to be trained on cross contact. Without proper of labeling of equipment and training of staff there is just too high a risk.

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