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A Gluten Free Call to Action Warning about Starbucks Blended Light Frap Syrup

Posted May 06 2010 2:23pm

I was sitting her writing my Mother's Day post which is going to be happy and inspirational, when I received a call from Meg, a dear friend of mine who has been gluten free for almost 15 years, about some interactions she has been having with Starbucks.

Starbucks has recently changed their BLENDED LIGHT  FRAP mix and it now includes gluten.  Although it makes us in the gluten free community sad that they have done so, Starbucks has every legal right to change their mixes and, as far as I know, there is no legal obligation to warn the community that the FRAP  LIGHTS now contain gluten.  But what about a little customer service!!  

First, it took detective work to even figure out what the new label meant.  I have been looking into this issue for a couple of days.  Others in our community have called Starbucks customer service, talked to their local baristas and their has honeslty been a lot of vagueness.  My local Barista was completly unaware until I asked him to read the label and it noted gluten on it. 

My friend Meg pressed long enough until she got the email address for the person at Starbucks who is in charge of the FRAP line.  Here is the first email from Meg.
 
Thank you so much for taking an interest in this matter.
 
As you know, I've had Celiac Disease for 13 years.  I maintain a purely gluten free diet.  I buy a Coffee Lite Frap., everyday at Starbucks.  
 
The problem is as follows:  Starbuck's has added gluten to their  C.L. Frap.  It isn't a matter of cross contamination, they have, in fact, ADDED gluten to their recipe.  I myself, have held the actual container, and read the ingredients.  Not only can thousands of people not have their drink, but, to the best of my knowledge, Starbucks has failed to give their consumers notice. 
 
Without proper notice many, many people will become ill.  Those with Celiac Disease face a serious risk to their health and life.  I have visited a minimum of 12 Starbucks, since I became aware of the change.  I've spoken to baristas and managers and NOT one had been notified of the addition of gluten.  Arizona started their implementation of the new mix, during the first week of April.  The baristas knew of many people who complained of a "stomach ache". 
 
My concern is two fold.  First, people need to be given notice.  Secondly, I've lost my ability to have a low calorie drink at Starbucks.  I would very much like to understand the logic of not giving notice, and the need to add gluten to an existing drink.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Sincerely,

Meg 

Following their first conversatoin, the person at Starbucks was not even sure of the source of the gluten - there was some questions as to it possibly being corn gluten.  The following is the first written response Meg received from Starbucks:

Dear Meg

 

 

I’m sorry to hear that the formulation change we have made to Frappuccino® light means that as a sufferer of celiac disease you are unable to enjoy that beverage. We do not claim any of our beverages as gluten free due to the risk of cross contamination in store or at our manufacturing facilities but you are correct that as part of our policy of declaration on labels our new ingredients do say ‘contains gluten’ specifically  where the old did not. We do this so that our baristas and their customers can be as informed as possible about the ingredients that we use. In addition we are constantly looking at new and better ways to ensure that all customer are able to identify ingredients that are important to them and your feedback is useful in helping us do that.

 

I know you are looking for a reduced calorie Frappuccino® blended beverage and whilst the light product might now not be suitable, because of other changes we have made to the way we make the beverage in store you can now reduce the calories on a regular coffee frappuccino by requesting non fat milk and a tall is just 160 calories.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us.

 

Kind Regards

 

Ian

 

 

Ian Cranna

Director Blended Beverage

Starbucks Coffee Company

2401 Utah Ave. S.

S-MT2

Seattle

WA 98134-1435

 

direct line: 206 318 7190

cell: 206 499 9011

icranna@starbucks.com


It was finally determined that the gluten was in fact derived from barley and thus off limits.  But despite persistent pressing, Starbucks is taking the position that they will not give any sort of notice whatsoever to their customers as to this change in ingredients!  

Even though the email below indicates you can check Starbucks website for ingredients, I searched it and  could not find the ingredients for the Frap Light Syrup:

Hi Meg

 

I have had confirmation back from our ingredient suppliers on the source of the gluten in the frappuccino light and it is in fact from barley.

 

As discussed on the phone we are continuously looking at how we can improve the availability of ingredient information to customers including for example use of our website. It is not our policy to include additional ingredient information on in store signage and we have no current plans to do that for frappuccino. As we discussed our store partners have access to all ingredients on the container label and in this case we specifically added the information of ‘contains Gluten’ despite the fact that we do not claim any of our beverages are gluten free due to the risk of cross contamination. 

 

What I am able to tell you is that in addition to our normal processes because a core ingredient in our new frappuccino light product now has a call out that it contains gluten we will be communicating this change specifically to all stores do draw attention to it in the event of customer questions.

 

Thank you for continuing to provide feedback, it does make a difference and we appreciate it.

 

 

 

Kind Regards

 

Ian

There is obviously no legal requirement for Starbucks to notify us of this change and even though the bottles of the syrup are behind the counter (my barista was very hesitant to hand it over) and even though the local baristas serving the drinks seem to have no idea that the syrup now contains gluten, and even though it has been like moving an avalanche to get Starbucks to comment on the source of the gluten, Starbucks has taken a position that they are not going to doing anything further beyond the label on the syrup bottle. 

So it is up to us the gluten free community to warn everyone that anything made with Starbucks Blended Light Frap Syrup is no longer safe.

I am also encouraging you to let Starbucks know how you feel about this change -  the fact that the syrup has been reformalated to no longer be safe and, once again, the cavalier attitude towards changes that will make its customers sick.   Do you know how many people probably have and could continue to get sick from this drink if someone in the GF community hadn't steeped up to look into the new ingredients?  

You can leave a public comment on Starbucks Ideas in Action Blog .

You can contact Ian Cranna, Director of Blended Beverages at the following:

Ian Cranna

Director Blended Beverage

Starbucks Coffee Company

2401 Utah Ave. S.

S-MT2

Seattle

WA 98134-1435

 

direct line: 206 318 7190

cell: 206 499 9011

icranna@starbucks.com




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