Archive for the ‘Food Allergy Labels’ Category

Is Starbucks Really a Food Allergy Friendly Restaurant?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Whenever I travel, or wherever I travel, I have noticed that I am not the only one on the planet who loves an occasional burst of caffeine. There’s something about holding that hot cup of coffee in the a.m. that gives me the warm and fuzzies.

Yesterday I had an inquiry regarding the ability of Starbucks to safely accommodate individuals with food allergies. So, after dinner, I started to dig. I went to looking for nutrition information. About 15 minutes into my exploration, I called 1-800-23LATTE to talk to customer support. An extremely friendly Starbuck’s representative answered my questions and helped me navigate deeper into their website. The site is nicely designed by location, lists each food and beverage item, and displays whether or not it allegedly contains any of the major food allergens.

It turns out that the food allergy friendly status of one’s local Starbucks is influenced by geographical region and the local suppliers that provide items to the store. Ok, makes sense to me. I was advised to talk to my local Starbucks manager to get more details regarding food allergies. He/she should be willing to call the production facilities. Before I hopped in the car, I spent more time on their website searching for edibles that my own son with food allergies might be able to eat. I concentrated my search on pre-packaged items that might be stocked in the cooler since the customer support representative repeatedly used the phrase “we cannot guarantee no cross-contamination due to the open air environment” in their stores and their lack of food allergy details from their manufacturers.

Driving down the street, I was cautiously enthusiastic that my own son might be able to order that same Perfect Oatmeal that I personally enjoy when I travel. The website showed it as being free of milk, egg, and nuts. Not so fast missy!

In my local Starbucks, of Suburban, America, I was greeted by a very friendly young woman who was eager to help me find and read ingredient labels regarding food allergies. In the cooler, the packaged fruit looked mouth watering, but there was no clarity on possible cross-contamination and we couldn’t find the manufacturer’s identification anywhere on the original shipping box. Another trip back to talk to the manager might reveal more information.

The oatmeal was a huge disappointment. The fine print revealed that it is manufactured in a facility that processes tree nuts and a few other things. How can Starbucks post on their website that it’s free of nuts when there’s a warning on the package about possible cross-contamination? I’m sorry but you landed yourself a position on my personal “doesn’t ‘get it’ list” for food allergies.

There are a few bottled drinks from Odwalla, Tazo, and Naked in the cooler that appear well labeled. And sometimes, some Starbucks have fresh bananas still in the peel that might be ok from some of us.

On the way home I ranted about how mislead I felt by their website and how they would be hearing from me, as soon as I get some free time, regarding their lack of sensitivity to the community of families with food allergies. Meanwhile, they probably won’t be hearing from some of the wallets of the 12 million or so individuals who have food allergies and would like to eat there, but can’t because the menu is like a minefield for individuals with food allergies.

Dear Starbucks,
Have you closed any stores lately? Would you like to increase your sales? Do you want more revenue? Well, there are 12 million of us with food allergies, and our family members, who are hungry, with money in our wallets, who would like to stop in. But you have to make the first move.

Read the Label, DAMN IT!!!!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Our house rule: “He who opens a new package/bottle/can MUST read the label or they catch the wrath of me!” It’s a pain, it’s time consuming, it’s tedious and it’s not fun, but it must be done. It saves lives. “And if you can’t read, find someone who will read it WITH you, so you can learn how to read it for yourself.” We struggled with this for a long time, and to this day I still randomly call out members of my family to keep them on their toes and keep them reading labels. Nobody likes it, and I don’t like playing cop, but we all appreciate the necessity of it.
At first, everyone tried to pin the responsibility on the grocery shopper. Since that was mostly me, I cried unfair. Shopping is painful enough without the responsibility to read all the food labels before the items land in the cart. In addition to taking half a day at the store, all the perishables would spoil and the frozen foods would all melt. Then it was proposed that the person with the food allergy read all the labels before eating anything. Well, that’s inefficient and it’s inhumane. That means the same person might read the same label a dozen times before a single box of cereal is empty! Think about it.
I’m always open to suggestions, but the best system we could find is to have the person who opens a package, read the label before the package is opened. That way, every label only has to be read once and the responsibility is shared amongst loving family members. It sure beats mom or dad being responsible for reading a label each and every time someone puts something in their mouth. It also creates a sense of responsibility at a team level, trust and independence.