Starbucks milk coffees no longer safe for coeliacs

Starbucks milk coffees no longer safe for coeliacs

Two bits of Starbucks gluten-free news this week. Both completely opposite of each other.

The good news:

The chain have introduced a Starbucks gluten-free chicken and pesto panini – a hot sandwich, warmed in its own wrapper to avoid cross-contamination. You can get it most of the coffee shops now for £4.49. Here it is in all it’s glory:

The bad news:

Starbucks have launched oat milk, a sweet vegan alternative, which will be offered alongside other dairy-free alternatives, soy milk and almond milk.

That’s great, right? I’m all up for more vegan and gluten-free convenience food.

Not so fast. In bringing oat milk into the equation, Starbucks have made their hot drinks completely unavailable to people with coeliac disease. The same steam nozzle is used for all Starbucks drinks, so – you guessed it – your go-to latte will now be cross-contaminated with oats. Completely unnecessarily.

Starbucks have confirmed that there may be ‘low levels’ of gluten present. Coeliac UK are now investigating just how low these levels are. The charity have released a statement warning coeliacs to be aware of this risk and has also contacted Starbucks, urging the chain to reconsider its practices concerning cross-contamination.

Starbucks gluten-free: one step forward and two steps back

One per cent of the UK population have coeliac disease. One per cent of Brits are vegan. Yes, many people go vegan for health reasons. It may not necessarily be a choice – but mostly, it is.

Coeliac disease, on the other hand, is a chronic autoimmune condition that is NOT A CHOICE. I’d kill for a ‘cheat day’ I could tuck into an almond croissant but it’s just not worth the early death, TBH. The least companies can do is keep a seemingly simple thing like drinks safe. The effort has gone into releasing a safe Starbucks gluten-free panini – so there’s obviously SOME awareness.

Starbucks oat milk contamination: the solution?

Like many coeliacs, I’m also intolerant to dairy. I find soy and almond is plenty to keep me going with coffees. But after chatting with baristas, I hear oat milk is more effective and results in a better beverage. Fair enough. For a business, it’s about profit.

Now here’s the thing – some oat milk is gluten-free with very low levels of cross-contamination. Rude Health, for example. Oatly, however, is not gluten-free. This is the product I see a lot of coffee shops using. A trace of this on the steamer would be very likely to kick off an autoimmune reaction in a coeliac.

If Starbucks REALLY want to make more money, investing in just one isolated machine to cater to those with allergies is worth it. Finding an oat milk that’s entirely gluten-free would also solve a few problems. In terms of profits, it’s then catering for two per cent of the population, rather than one.

But then there are coeliacs who react to completely gluten-free oats. It’s all very complicated – which is why we need a thorough statement from Starbucks, working with CUK.

I’m not the only one angry about it. Here’s what the gluten free community on Twitter are saying about the Starbucks gluten-free fluff up:



Some people are staying positive, but holding out on more information regarding cross-contamination:


Coeliacs, be careful. Keep an eye out for news from Coeliac UK about Starbucks gluten-free policies and in the meantime, support your local independents! (Actually, always do that, the coffee is much better anyway). It’s not always possible though, and means we’re losing more convenience foods.

If I hear any more, I’ll share updates on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Give me a follow and join in the conversation.

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