- I'm a glass-half-full type of girl. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, grave's disease and celiac disease in 2010 and life-altering allergies in 2013. I believe having a positive attitude is the only way to live with dis-ease. I also believe that life doesn't have to be PERFECT for it to be WONDERFUL. Dis-ease is expensive, so I live a frugal yet healthy lifestyle. This is just my blog; my day-to-day story.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Starbucks is my Foe.
This post was written as an illustration using a personal situation (my own). It is to demonstrate to others just how difficult it can be to obtain ingredient information when you need to know it, in order to make the decision as to whether it is safe for me to eat or not.
Unfortunately, a celiac cannot always rely solely on labels to determine the gluten status of products. Some companies are great about labeling gluten; others- not so much. It makes grocery shopping a guessing game, and a frustrating one at that. It is not uncommon to see me standing in the grocery aisle, on my iPhone, either googling a food or calling their 800# to ask about allergen (gluten) information.
A while back, I made a call to Starbucks, wanting to inquire whether their cold(bottled) Starbucks Frappuccinos were gluten free. You see, back before I was a celiac, I was a Starbucks LOVVVVV-ER. Sbux 7 days a week! Starbucks coffee was my drink of choice. When stressed, some people flock to the bar; I ran to Starbucks. It was my oasis from chaos; having the hot steam of the caramel latte drift into my nostrils as I carefully slurped up the "extra foam" I'd ordered. Ahhhhh, I still remember those days, even though it's been a year and half since I've been there.
Anyway, back to my story. After checking on their website to determine the gluten free status of their bottled frappuccino (and finding zero answers), I placed a call to Starbucks' customer service number. I asked the representative a very simple question:
Me: "Is your frappuccino gluten free?"
Starbucks rep: "We are unable to provide the gluten free status of ANY of our products (either in a Starbucks or products sold at the grocery stores). We suggest that you not purchase our products if you feel you are unable to eat gluten."
Me: (thinking WHAAAAAAAAAT??????, and trying not to panic, but saying:) Ummm, okay... can you tell me whether your products include actual gluten ingredients and if so, what are they?, or is it because of a potential cross contamination risk?
Starbucks rep: We strongly advise you to consult with your doctor to determine whether you can eat/drink any of our products.
Me: My doctor isn't a...um FOOD CHEMIST, so he will likely be as unable as I am to determine what MALTODEXRIN is, or any other ingredient. Besides, it isn't his responsibility to know what's in YOUR product. He has already instructed me to contact the manufacturer when I am unable to determine from the label whether a product is gluten free. So is there someone else there that might be able to assist me with the frappuccino question?
Starbucks rep: I'll see. Please hold. (Hold music......)
10 minutes later....
8 more minutes later... (purrrrty sure they are waiting for me to get sick of holding and hang up)
Starbucks rep: Ma'am we do not bottle the frappuccino, so you will need to contact PepsiCo at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Me: Okayyyyy..... Will do....
Starbucks rep: Is there anything else I can do to assist you?
Me: (thinking: REALLY?????, real answer:) No thank you.
Me (calling PepsiCo): Hi there. Can you please tell me if Starbucks bottled Frappuccino is gluten free?
PepsiCo: Why the hell are you calling us about that? Okay, I admit that wasn't their ACTUAL response, but they essentially said the same thing: Ma'am, we only bottle the products for Starbucks, we don't make the beverage. You will need to contact Starbucks for that. Do you need their number?"
Me: No, (sigh), I've got it. It's just that they told me... never mind. Thank you for your time.
Me (calling Starbucks back again): Hello, (re-explained entire situation, including call to PepsiCo and their response.)So I've been referred back to you from PepsiCo to determine what is actually in your ingredients and specifically if the ingredients are gluten free.
Starbucks Rep: Please hold....
Starbucks Rep: "We are unable to provide the gluten free status of ANY of our products (either in a Starbucks or products sold at the grocery stores). We suggest that you not purchase our products if you feel you are unable to eat gluten."
Well, at least she didn't refer me back to my doctor again.
In the end, Starbucks continues to claim that they are unsure of their ingredients and whether they contain gluten. Their stance is that people with either intolerance or like me, celiac disease, should refrain from giving them our business.
So guess what, that's exactly what I've done.
But it does hurt my feelings that an establishment that I've spent SO much time in over the years, and as a (former) frequent, daily patron, that they really don't care about me, well, US (celiacs). I've since written them a couple letters explaining the need for them to get on the gluten free movement!
In the meantime, I cannot go to Starbucks or buy any of their products to be on the safe side. So I've started frequenting Caribou Coffee instead.
Someday all food manufacturers will know what they are putting in their OWN food and stop relying on (if not blaming) the consumer. Until they do, I will continue to send letters and emails to the corporations, asking to start properly labeling their products.
It can just be a pain in the neck sometimes.