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kim@glutenfreeislife.com

Pumpkin Spice Latte Fans Beware

The time of year has come when Starbucks is once again making the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte. Due to Starbucks making changes earlier this year to their Frappuccinos, I thought it would be in my best interest to email them to verify the gluten-free status of the lattes/syrups, etc. I am not at all pleased with the response that I got.

Hello Kimberly,

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

Starbucks is unable to guarantee a “gluten-free” environment in our retail locations due to the potential for cross contamination with gluten-containing products. The open environment and operating procedures of our store locations may present additional risk for gluten-sensitive customers aside from the gluten-containing ingredients themselves. “Gluten-free” is a claim with specific requirements defined by government agencies and industry standards. We are unable to make this claim on a product unless the item is specifically formulated and manufactured to meet the definition of the claim.

We do offer some packaged food items that meet gluten-free requirements including Kind Bars, Lucy’s Cookies, Peeled Snacks, Two Mom’s Raw Granola and Food Should Taste Good Chips. Please note that product assortment varies from location to location, and our packaged food offerings may change from season to season. If a packaged food item qualifies as gluten-free, it will be indicated on the label.

If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know.

Warm Regards,

Allison T.
Customer Relations
Starbucks Coffee Company
800 23-LATTE (235-2883)
Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

While I appreciate the honesty, I am saddened that I can’t have my beloved latte. :( They don’t come right out & say that the pumpkin spice syrup has gluten in it, but they won’t say that it doesn’t either. I do appreciate the other gluten-free snacks that they are now offering, but in all honesty, their plain coffee is not good enough to entice me into the store to buy it or the snacks.

So long Pumpkin Spice Latte, so long. Perhaps I can save all the money I would have spent on my PSLs and put it towards something fun – like a new pair of jeans or pedicure!

33 comments to Pumpkin Spice Latte Fans Beware

  • I love that you write to ask…and they almost give you an answer.

    I know the calories in those drinks make me gain weight just from smelling them.

    I don't venture in to Starbucks very often, but when I do, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is one of my favorites.

    I agree – save the money, and get a new pair of jeans – that you'll fit into much better because you did not splurge on the possibly-gluten-containing extra Pumpkin Spice Latte calories!

  • Aw bummer! I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes too! I’m not GF but my niece is. I’ll pass this info on to her since I know she is a big Starbucks fan.

  • Well, you can always make your own :) Probably healthier that way too! I don't think they are very complicated to make, as long as you can make a homemade latte. I think all you have to add in to a standard latte is some pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice etc.), and then sweetener of your choice – you should be able to do a pretty decent copy cat at home where you can make sure of its gluten-free ness :)

  • Erin

    This is very disappointing, especially since there is a Starbucks right down the street from me! Thank you for sharing this info though, as I probably would have gotten one without knowing.

    I did try this last year and really liked it: http://www.gloriajeans.com/pc-573-2-pumpkin-spice

    Their website also claims: "Our brewed coffees contain no gluten, gluten by-products; nothing is derived from gluten." Although, I'm not sure about their lattes.

  • Julie Garmon

    Thanks for the heads up.

    J

  • To be honest, I think that unless Starbucks has a separate facility for making these ingredients and a separate area of their retail locations dedicated to gluten free, they must make this statement. If this latte is free of gluten ingredients, it's likely that you'd never have a problem with it, but on the off chance that someone used a utensil that had been used to mix a gluten-containing latte or had used a machine without cleaning, you could. I'd still drink the latte because I'm betting nothing has changed. But, that's me and what I'd do. I think we ingest a lot of other "gluten-free" products that fall into the same category, but because they have that label (for which the reqs have not officially been set by the FDA yet and most likely those products won't ever be checked/inspected by the FDA once they are in place), we think they are safe. I've had better luck eating products without gluten-free labels that contain no gluten naturally than I have had eating products labeled gluten free but made by companies that also make gluten products even if they test, etc. Food for thought, and thanks as always for the info, Kim.

    Shirley

  • Kim

    Jenn – Thanks for the great idea! Now if I can only motivate! ;)

    Erin – Thank you for the info! I will be looking into that! YUM!!

    Shirley – I know what you are saying & you are probably right. I tend to obsess a bit about stuff like this. It isn't so much the cross-contamination that I worry about, but the change of ingredients in the syrups they use in the lattes. I have ordered lattes from Starbucks since being diagnosed with no issues. Thanks for sharing. :)

    Kim

  • I can understand that legally they have to CYA, I get that. But in this email it's implied that anything can be cross contaminated-which while possible indeed, seems unlikely for an Americano, you know? I think (if I ruled the world) that they should give a straight answer if the syrup has or does not have gluten containing ingredients, make the disclaimer, and then we will have the info we need to make an informed decision.

    GAH! I hate not getting straight answers! LOL-can you tell it's a pet peeve? ;)

  • Kim

    Erin – That is how I feel! Just tell me!!

  • A little addition/clarification on my comments in re: to your and Erin's comments. I didn't mean to seem unsympathetic or uncaring about Starbucks' response.

    Kim, you asked them specifically about the gluten-free status, right? You didn't ask them to identify the ingredients, is that correct? It's true that most companies will tell you the ingredients when you inquire about a product's gf status and then they'll go on to give the CYA statement. Obviously, Starbucks didn't offer the ingredient info with their CYA. But, aren't they required to list the ingredients, if you ask them that directly? With Diane in Seattle at a Starbucks, she inquired on ingredients on a coffee and was shown the ingredients. I'd re-ask the question. Many people have food allergies and are often asking this question. If wheat is included, it would be shown. However, if barley is included they would not have to show that, although I think most companies do. That's my understanding on the FALCPA law, although I'm still not completely sure if it applies to retail locations versus items purchased in stores. I've read conflicting info on that. So, Kim, in the interest of all, perhaps you should reword your question and try again. I think everyone would appreciate it. And, you might not have to give up your PSLs after all! :-) BTW, my son is a fan of those, too, and I'd hate to give him bad news. ;-)

    Hugs,

    Shirley

  • Kim

    Shirley,

    Good idea, I will do that. When I have read the ingredients on other flavors, they have had "natural flavors", so I wonder if that is the issue. I will update here once I get a response.

    Kim

  • Good point, Shirley. Perhaps I had premature ranting syndrome ;)

  • Kim

    Shirley & Erin – I sent the email yesterday. I will update when I hear something.

  • Aww that is quite a tragedy :( I will admit I'm not super versed on exactly what is and is not GF, but I've made my own "pumpkin spice" syrup mix before, and have just kept it refrigerated and added it to my morning coffee.. perhaps you could try that instead?

  • Kim

    Val – That is what I am thinking of doing. Is the recipe on your blog?

  • Hilary

    I asked to read the ingredients yesterday. I didn't see anything in the syrup or pumpkin spice powder that looked dangerous. I agree with a previous poster, Asking if a product contained gluten might have received a different answer. I've never had any CC problems at starbucks, I drink latte's, macciattos and americanos.

  • G

    Any establishment that serves consumables and is not completely gluten free, is NOT gluten free at all. Cross contamination is unavoidable in restaurant situations. Just because you feel "ok" or think you don't feel "too bad" when you eat somewhere that offers "gluten free options" doesn't mean that your body is not reacting.

    I appreciate that they did not state if their syrup was or was not gluten free. It IS a moot point.

    Since they did not say, a lot of people will not risk it. People WILL risk cross contamination in establishments that offer "gluten free options".

    But it isn't merely a risk: it's an absolute.

  • [...] Pumpkin Latte Update As suggested in my Pumpkin Spice Latte Fans Beware post, I emailed Starbucks to get the ingredient list from the pumpkin spice syrups. This is the [...]

  • [...] can’t tell you how thrilled I was!! After my huge disappointment regarding the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks, it was nice to know that I can now have my treat! [...]

  • Alicia

    It must have gluten in it, because I had one the other day and was violently sick. I asked the clerk and she said no gluten, but I don't think she really knew.

  • Alicia – I am sorry to hear that! :(

  • Eve

    That is actually the same response that they give for the gluten free question of any of their drinks, while infact, most of the syrup flavors are actually gluten free. It might be more beneficial to find out the exact ingredients list.

    However, I've been wondering if that particular flavor is gluten free because I have been getting sick lately and I think that is the only thing that has changed in my diet.

  • Kim

    Eve,

    I did get the ingredient list. You can find it in this post:

    http://www.glutenfreeislife.com/?p=2926

    I have been avoiding Starbucks, but did get confirmation that Caribou Coffee's pumpkin latte is GF.

    Kim

  • jacque

    just an fyi the spice recipe there from years back was a flavored honey that then was added to the usual latte ingredients.

    fall spices, vanilla extract and honey combined well and then used to flavor the pumpkin spice latte. I only saw them make the syrup once or twice. I'm not trying to give away trade secrets here but no gluten to my knowledge.

  • Erin Young

    I don’t normally drink Starbucks, but I saw the pumpkin spice latte advertised and since today is my birthday I decided to splurge. I asked the Batista if it was gluten free and he looked at me as if I had two heads. I asked him what is in it and he told me it’s just like any other latte but with the pumpkin spice flavored syrup so I took a chance and ordered it with soymilk because I am also allergic to dairy. I also have a mild soy allergy which is why I usually avoid Starbucks altogether since their actual coffee is nothing great, but I finished it a few minutes ago and feel intensely bloated and have some stomach cramps and soy usually doesn’t have this strong of a a negative effect on me which leads me to believe it is the pumpkin spice that contains gluten because this is exactly how I feel when I accidentally ingest gluten. I am glad I did a google search to find this blog and know I am not the only one…too bad I decided to chance it on my birthday…thanks Starbucks :-( I am going to have a cup of Ginger tea now…best cure I have found to reduce bloating and inflammation after eating gluten or soy.

  • Audra spencer

    I am not super sensitive to gluten, and I just had a pumpkin spice latte and I am suffering!!!!

  • Jasmin

    I actually just called Starbucks because the Pumpkin Spice Latte is my favorite drink from there and they said that all of the syrups and milk and whipped cream that go into making the latte ARE gluten free but that they cannot guarantee that there will not be cross contamination due to the fact that some of their other items are not gluten free.

  • Jennifer

    I am pretty sensitive and have mastered the art of getting my beloved pumpkin spice latte. The trick is no whip and no “sprinkles”. The sprinkles have pie crust and granola in it. Without that it’s just the syrup which is gluten free, espresso, and steamed milk. Hope this helps.

  • I just came across this post – I recently wrote a blog post on the same topic, but challenging Starbucks to shape up…you, and your readers might find it interesting.
    http://glutenfreebumblebee.blogspot.com/2011/09/n

  • Valerie

    Hm. I have a pumpkin spice latte a day when they're available (it's my one splurge) and never have any problems from it, and I'm pretty sensitive – particularly to barley, it's the one thing that will set me off in even the tiniest amounts. I recognize that not everyone reacts to the same things, so that doesn't necessarily mean it's gluten-free, but there's my two cents for what it's worth. Obviously, if you're in doubt, it's better to just avoid it.

  • Caroline

    I was diagnosed as being gluten intolerant in July and an still figuring out what is gluten free and what is not. I’ve been pretty good up until today when I ordered the pumpkin spice latte and forgot to ask if it was gluten free. It’s sad, but I’m going to avoid it in the future; I am very nauseated now!

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