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Last 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 pitchersbehind 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!

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